It seems that galactic hunger is on the menu for this week. First, the hungry Milky Way is eating all the small galaxies and clusters in the area. Then, it spits out those that get too close to the dark chocolate center. And now, there appear to be hundreds of rogue black holes roaming the Milky Way swallowing anything that gets too close! I sure a stray black hole in the neighborhood would surely ruin my day. However, astronomers think that the Earth is safe, because the closest rogue black hole should be thousands of light-years away.
According to the latest theory, rogue black holes were originally at the centers of tiny, low-mass galaxies. As shown in the image below of a black hole in a globular cluster in the galaxy M20.
Over billions of years, those dwarf galaxies smashed together to form full-sized galaxies like the Milky Way. During the merger, gravitational radiation would cause one of the black holes to recoil sending it speeding outward fast enough to escape its host galaxy, but not fast enough to leave the galactic neighborhood completely. Below is a Hubble image of a black hole recoiling from the super massive black hole in the center of a distant galaxy.
That means that hundreds of rogue black holes could be traveling the Milky Way’s outskirts, each containing the mass of 1,000 to 100,000 suns. They would be difficult to spot because a black hole is, well, black. But they do become visible when they are swallowing, or accreting, matter.
Astronomers theorize that one telltale sign of a rogue black hole would be a compact cluster of stars surrounding the black hole that were pulled along with the black hole during its escape.
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I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +