The galaxy NGC-1097 with a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars at its center
Nasa has found a monster black hole 100 million times the mass of the Sun feeding off gas, dust and stars at the centre of a galaxy 50 million light-years away.
The star-ringed black hole forms the eye of a galaxy called NGC-1097 which was photographed by the US space agency’s Spitzer Space Telescope in California.
A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational pull is so powerful that nothing, including whole planets, can escape being sucked in if they come within its reach.
The galaxy in the photograph is spiral-shaped, like our Milky Way, and extends long arms of red stars into space. But Nasa said the black hole at the centre of the galaxy in which Earth is situated is tame by comparison to NGC-1097, with the mass of just a few million suns.
The Milky Way galaxy in which our solar system is situated
“The fate of this black hole and others like it is an active area of research,” said George Helou, deputy director of Nasa’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole.”
The picture shows a fiery ring around the black hole which is packed with brightly-burning newborn stars.
“The ring itself is a fascinating object worthy of study because it is forming stars at a very high rate,” said Kartik Sheth, an astronomer at Nasa’s Spitzer Science Center.
The galaxy’s red spiral arms and swirling spokes between them show dust heated by newborn stars, while older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue.
A fuzzy blue dot to the left of the image shows a companion galaxy, while other dots are either stars in the Milky Way, or other more distant galaxies.