National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Rapid Flares in Normal Looking Galaxies Hint at the Ubiquity of Supermassive Black Holes

| Science

A search for transient phenomena in galaxies using the Subaru telescope by a research group led by Dr. Tomonori Totani at Kyoto University has led to the discovery of visible flares in the centers of apparently normal galaxies.

The galaxies showing a rapid increase in visible brightness in their centers are about 4 billion light years away, and the increase in brightness occurred over just a few days. This light is probably coming from disks of hot matter rotating close to the speed of light, about 1 billion kilometers from supermassive black holes about 100 million times heavier than the Sun

These black holes are much heavier than the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which is about 3 million times more massive than the Sun. This is the first time that such violent activity is observed from such heavy black holes in visible light. The fact that the flares are occurring in otherwise normal looking galaxies support the idea that black holes exist in the center of almost all galaxies.