The University of Southampton

Astronomers explore novel method to 'weigh' supermassive black holes

Published: 11 December 2019
Clustering of galaxies with active black holes (Credit: Chris Marsden, University of Southampton)

An international team of astronomers led by the University of Southampton have observed an unexpected link between supermassive black holes and their galaxies which could be used to help estimate their mass.

The new study, led by Physics and Astronomy's Dr Francesco Shankar, has 'weighed' supermassive black holes by measuring the distances between the galaxies that contain them. Researchers have published their findings this week in Nature Astronomy.

The observations are based on the surprising finding that the size of supermassive black holes might correlate with those of their galactic hosts.

By comparing simulations with recent data on the spatial distribution of galaxies, the group found evidence that supermassive black holes are, on average, not as massive as previously thought.

"These findings have significant implications for our understanding of the evolution and growth of supermassive black holes," Francesco says. "What we have discovered suggests a greater ability to release energy, and less strength in powering gravitational waves as supermassive black holes merge."

Read the full story on the main news page.

Articles that may also interest you

Share this article FacebookTwitterWeibo