NASA image may show first-ever ‘rogue’ supermassive black hole, leaving a trail of newborn stars in its wake

It’s possible that the first ever detected runaway supermassive black hole can be seen in a NASA Hubble photograph.
Signs of an object’s departure from a galaxy suggest that a black hole may have been expelled.

More than three decades after its launch, the Hubble Space Telescope is continuously discovering groundbreaking discoveries. The newest? First evidence of a supermassive black hole beyond its home galaxy.

That’s the conclusion reached by a group of astronomers in a recently published paper. According to Yale astronomer and study leader Pieter van Dokkum, their research has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Professionals in unrelated fields have expressed enthusiasm about the team’s findings.

Insider spoke with Manuela Campanelli, an astronomer at Rochester Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study but has modelled runaway black holes. “The observations are all fitting together with this scenario,” she said.

The first possible photo of a ‘rogue’ supermassive black hole

The two pictures above are of the same item, and together they show what happened.

See the close-up on the right? An enormous galaxy can be seen in the top right corner. Then go to the point on the bottom left where the elusive line veers away from it. There, according to experts, is a black hole that has gone rogue.

By definition, black holes can’t be seen. Because it is surrounded by a hot disk of gas, stars, and other observable cosmic material, astronomers can “see” any black hole.

The black hole itself is amazing, but the following streak behind it is quite incredible. That’s what scientists noticed when they looked at surrounding stars.

According to this theory, the black hole was ejected from its home galaxy, blasted across space, and generated a shockwave that drove clouds of intergalactic gas to condense into stars, leaving behind a lengthy tail.

“I thought that I’d actually made an error that there was this weird streak in the image,” van Dokkum said to Insider. It didn’t resemble anything in the cosmos at first glance. Then it was shown to be true. In addition, it appeared in a number of additional databases. My anticipation grew at that point.