The Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and ESA, is ideal for detecting objects that are in the distance of space. Black holes, which are not actually visible, reveal their position thanks to the galaxies that surround them, but a new survey has revealed a black hole with a disk of material that according to our knowledge of black holes should not even be there.
The Black Hole is located in the heart of galaxy NGC 3147, a spiral galaxy that is 130 million light-years from Earth. Due to the state of the galaxy, researchers have suggested that the black hole is essentially starving, but the presence of a disk of material challenges this assumption.
Active galaxies that feed supermassive black holes at their centers often create a ring of debris surrounding the black hole. When material comes too close, it is swallowed, but in less-active galaxies, the black holes in their nucleus do not have the gravitational force to continuously pull material from the surrounding galaxy.
"The kind of disc we see is a downsized quasar that we did not expect," said Stefano Bianchi, first author of a new paper on the Black Hole, the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society was published. "It's the same type of disk we see on objects that are 1000 or even 100,000 times brighter, and the predictions of current models for very weak active galaxies have clearly failed."
In the future, the team plans to target similar galaxies to determine whether this observation is representative of a trend or just a bizarre anomaly.