Mysteries of the Universe – UNCOVERED no. 1

A Black Hole

Good morning. (Forgive me if you are reading this at another time of the day – but I can’t really be responsible for your reading habits as well now, can I?)


And of course to most, but not all a Happy New Year. (Again, if you happen to be reading this at another moment in time, irrelevant to the passing of one year into another, or perhaps in a collected form of essays, forming some manner of Science information ‘book’, picked up from some reasonably priced high street retail store, I really can’t be held responsible – unless perhaps you may have been given this book by some wise relative as a Christmas present, and have started to undertake the reading of it, say in the month of January – to which then again I bid you a Happy New Year.)


You recently find me returned from the 213th American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, California. Immaterial a venue really in relevance to what was discussed, but you will find that many scientists are also keen surfers and the waves are epic. I rode a particularly sick tube – much to the envy of that ‘shubie’ Hawking!


However I digress, what I thought of interest to bring to your attention was a recently announced discovery. To whit – which came first – the chicken or the egg?


That’s right…Black Holes. (Then the egg, followed by the chicken).


My fellow Scientists have been using radio telescopes to peer back to near the beginning of the Universe, thought to be some 13.7 billion, 23.3 million, 440 thousand, 12 hundred and 6 (by my calculations at least – but I may be a day out or so) years ago, when the first galaxies were forming. Earlier studies of nearby galaxies had revealed an intriguing link between the masses of black holes and the central “bulges” of stars and gas in galaxies. Generally, the mass of a black hole was observed to be about 1,000th that of the mass of the surrounding galactic bulge.


This constant ratio indicated an “interactive relationship” between the black hole and the bulge, but it was not clear whether one grew before the other, or whether they grew together.

Now we have finally been able to measure black-hole and bulge masses in several galaxies seen as they were in the first billion years after the Big Bang and the evidence suggests that the constant ratio seen, in nearby galaxies, may not hold in the early Universe. The implication is that the black holes started growing first.


Heady stuff – I know, think how I felt having turned up with my slide show of constellations that looked like pets.


Still I’m sure you will share in my excitement at this thrilling new discovery, even now

powerful new radio telescopes are under construction in New Mexico and Chile to help further unravel the mysteries of the Universe. So next time you find yourself out one cold, wintery evening, and chance a glance upward – just stop to take a look, that bit of black, right next to the group of stars that looks like a gerbil – could that be a black hole?



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