Astronomers have been able to measure the mass of an enormous black hole located at around 73 million light-years from Earth; the findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
We all know that black holes are abysmal in size. How, then, can we measure them to know how big they actually are? Astronomers have concocted a way to do that: by using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a telescope located in Chile used to scan the sky for heavenly bodies, to determine the speed at which gas surrounding black holes is moving.
The team of researchers have used the ALMA to estimate the mass of a super big black hole, found 73 million light-years from us: their calculations put this at around 660 million Suns, based on the speed of the gas (carbon monoxide) around it (500 kilometers per second).
Senior author Andrew J. Baker from Rutgers University explains that this is an achievement scientists have been trying to accomplish for over 2 decades now. Finding the mass of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) situated at the centre of galaxies has kept astronomers and physicists busy for all this time, and this study is thus invaluable to the world of science.
How is this detail important? According to researchers, the growth of black holes is correlated with the growth of the galaxy in whose centre they are found, and more interestingly, every major galaxy is thought to contain an SMBH. According to Baker, this means that they must be having a great influence on the formation of these galaxies. Therefore, learning about black holes is hoped to provide more information about galaxies themselves, their formation and evolution.