A Runaway Supermassive Black Hole is Tearing Across Interstellar Space

Every bit of about a ‘runaway supermassive black hole‘ sounds exciting. The idea of something so massive on the run, the visual of it leaving behind a trail of newly formed stars, and the sheer power of such a force is something that makes our brain feel sparkly.

Astronomers using Hubble telescope recently spotted a strange ‘blemish’ that turned out to be an amazing sight – a supermassive black hole trailing a 200,000-light-year-long chain of young blue stars. After being ejected from a galaxy, this near unfathomable force is tearing across the interstellar space at breakneck speed.

Artists have visualized what this anomaly looks like, which is, frankly, incredible. Nothing like this has ever been seen in the universe before.

From Hubblesite:

“The universe is so capricious that even the slightest things that might go unnoticed could have profound implications. That’s what happened to Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum when he was looking through Hubble Space Telescope images and noticed a suspected blemish that looked like a scratch on photographic film. For Hubble’s electronic cameras, cosmic rays skimming along the detector look like “scratches.” But once spectroscopy was done on the oddball streak van Dokkum realized it was really a 200,000-light-year-long chain of young blue stars located over halfway across the universe! van Dokkum and his colleagues believe that it stretches between a runaway monster back hole and the galaxy it was ejected from. The black hole must be compressing gas along its wake, which condenses to form stars. Nothing like it has ever been seen anywhere else in the universe before.”

Visuals by NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak.

“This is an artist’s impression of a runaway supermassive black hole that was ejected from its host galaxy as a result of a tussle between it and two other black holes. As the black hole plows through intergalactic space it compresses tenuous gas in front to it. This precipitates the birth of hot blue stars. This illustration is based on Hubble Space Telescope observations of a 200,000-light-year-long “contrail” of stars behind an escaping black hole.”