Home > Astronomy, Black Holes, General Astronomy > NGC 4178: Revealing A Mini-Supermassive Black Hole

NGC 4178: Revealing A Mini-Supermassive Black Hole


Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/George Mason Univ/N.Secrest et al; Optical: SDSS

One of the lowest mass supermassive black holes ever observed in the middle of a galaxy has been identified, thanks to NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other observatories. The host galaxy is of a type not expected to harbor supermassive black holes, suggesting that this black hole, while related to its supermassive cousins, may have a different origin.

The black hole is located in the middle of the spiral galaxy NGC 4178, shown in this image from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The inset shows an X-ray source at the position of the black hole, in the center of a Chandra image. An analysis of the Chandra data, along with infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and radio data from the NSF’s Very Large Array suggests that the black hole is near the extreme low-mass end of the supermassive black hole range.

The properties of the X-ray source, including its brightness and spectrum – the amount of X-rays at different wavelengths – and its brightness at infrared wavelengths, suggest that a black hole in the center of NGC 4178 is rapidly pulling in material from its surroundings. The same data also suggest that light generated by this infalling material is heavily absorbed by gas and dust surrounding the black hole.

Full Story: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2012/ngc4178/
Also: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/multimedia/mini_black_hole.html

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