The Webb telescope will investigate a rogue black hole in the lam of its galaxy

In 2012, astronomers reported that cosmic forces had ejected the enormous black hole CID-42 at speeds of several million miles per hour out of the center of its galaxy. It goes against the idea that supermassive black holes live at the center of all the large galaxies in the universe.

Ten years later, this team is among the lucky few to peer through the sensitive eyes of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as part of Cycle 1, which begins in November 2023 and runs through January 2024.

They hope that the hypersensitivity of the space telescope will get to the root of what is happening.

“A lot of people are interested in using JWST because it is the most powerful space telescope ever built,” says Francisco Muller Sanchez, an astrophysicist at the University of Memphis and leader of the upcoming CID-42 study. Reverse.

“The things we hope to see cannot be seen with any other telescope, and it was not possible to see those things in the past,” he adds.

Here is the background – CID-42 could be a “receding black hole,” a fancy way of saying it’s receding, according to astrophysicist and co-investigator Francesca Civano. She says Reverse that the total number of known candidates for this title is only about 10.

Instances like CID-42 could mean that throughout the universe, many giant black holes wander undetected, rendered invisible because the highly heated gas that normally surrounds them and reveals their location is missing.

Existing observations clearly show that CID-42 is not right in the center of its galaxy; in fact, this black hole shares space with another large object near the core. But this enigmatic object doesn’t emit X-rays, the standard calling card for black holes.

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The team is motivated by this secondary object and the black hole’s puzzling trajectory to learn more using JWST, and hope the space telescope builds on the theories they have established that explain what they see.

Why does it matter? The receding black hole could have been thrown out by a stormy galactic merger. The team believes that at least two, possibly even three, galaxies have collided in the past, recombining the large black holes they hit at their cores. If CID-42 is the new black hole, it may have received an abnormally uncomfortable recoil from asymmetric gravitational waves produced by the shock. These cosmic forces are created when very massive objects, such as black holes and neutron stars, collide.

An animation of the possible merger of two ancient galaxies, which collided and created gravitational waves. This model shows that these ripples may have been asymmetric and powerful enough to eject the supermassive black hole CID-42 from the galactic center.

The kick is usually mild, “just a few kilometers per second,” says Civano. Astronomical observatories don’t normally see it, and the black hole usually returns to the center of the new galaxy.

But CID-42 is an exception.

Whats Next – Future observations will confirm a few things.

JWST will analyze the motions of the stars in the CID-42 galaxy and the motion of the disk surrounding the black hole. If the velocities differ, the team will confirm that CID-42 is a true receding black hole, raising it from candidate to confirmed status.

That update allows the team to ask big questions about CID-42’s puzzling behavior.

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“Because [CID-42] is offset, the question is, what is the kinematics of this object? Müller Sánchez tells Reverse. “Is it moving away from the center of the galaxy? Is it moving towards the center of the galaxy? Is it orbiting the center of the galaxy, like a binary? Or are there two supermassive black holes and they are orbiting a common center of mass?

The telescope will also look at CID-42’s curious neighbor. Astronomers might unexpectedly find that a cluster of stars occupies this galactic center. Or, this oddball could be another supermassive black hole that Muller Sánchez is referring to, hiding behind what Civano calls a “brick wall” of dust and gas, thick enough to absorb X-ray emissions. of the giant. JWST will be sensitive enough to notice if the material is taking the energy and absorbing it.

Two colliding galaxies are visible in this JWST view of Stephan’s Quintet. NASA/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Furthermore, this possible secondary black hole could prove that the current galaxy was once three galaxies, and that two of its central black holes combined and subsequently ejected CID-42.

But, if the bright spot turns out not to be an obscured black hole, this galaxy is a rare example of how galactic evolution can run amok and leave a galaxy without its quintessential pounding heart.

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