Supermassive Black Hole Seen in Tiny Galaxy called UCD3

Within UCD3, a tiny, yet massive star cluster, astronomers have discovered a supermassive black hole millions of times more massive than our Sun. This object spotted inside the ultracompact dwarf galaxy is a rare breed of black hole not often seen by astronomers. Investigators recorded the object using the SINFONI spectrograph, one of the instruments utilized at the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Dwarf galaxies like Fornax UCD3 usually only measure about 300 light years in diameter, but their mass can exceed that of tens of millions of suns. This property ranks these clusters as the densest stellar systems anywhere.

“We have discovered a supermassive black hole in the center of Fornax UCD3. The black hole mass is 3.5 million that of the Sun, similar to the central black hole in our own Milky Way,” said Anton Afanasiev of Moscow State University.

UCD3 is seen here orbiting NGC 1399. Image: NASA/STScI/ESO/Afanasiev et al.

This discovery marks the fourth black hole discovered within UCD’s. Researchers believe these objects are the result of an average-sized galaxy passes by a much larger galaxy, losing most of the stars and other matter which made it up its structure.

Fornax UCD3 orbits the larger galaxy, NGC 1399, the central body of stars in the Fornax Cluster.

Nearly all galaxies are known to contain supermassive black holes near their centers. Astronomers have measured the mass of this latest discovery at four percent of the mass of the Fornax galaxy.



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