Earlier this year, Japan launched a groundbreaking black-hole-monitoring satellite—only to lose control of it almost immediately under strange circumstances.
When Hitomi died, though, researchers also announced that they’d managed to scrape a little bit of data from the satellite and would be detailing it in upcoming papers. Now, we finally can see what Hitomi did right before it died.
This is the last image Japan’s lost satellite saw. Despite showing a majestic view of the Perseus Cluster (a galaxy cluster 240 million light years away with a supermassive black hole at its center), it has some fascinating implications for what we know about the role of black holes in galaxy formation.
“Black holes very effectively control the growth rate of galaxies.” – Brian McNamara
“The surprise is that it turns out that the energy being pumped out of the black hole is being very efficiently absorbed,” co-author Brian McNamara of the University of Waterloo told Gizmodo. “This hot gas that we’re looking at with Hitomi is the stuff of the future, it’s the gas out of which galaxies form. There is much more of this hot gas than there are stars in the galaxy, or there’s more stuff that wasn’t made into galaxies than that was.”
That means that nearby black holes play a big role in the eventual size of a galaxy. “What it shows is that black holes very effectively control the growth rate of galaxies,” said McNamara.
The Universe exists as a balance between opposite forces. If one of these forces weakens the other grows stronger therefore, the balance is gone.
Black holes give energy that later transforms into galaxies, however, they also sucks up galaxies that already exist. This is that balance in action.
Even though we see black holes as something terrible they might just as well be a key element for the existence of life in The Universe and who knows, maybe everything started from a single black hole which dispersed energy.
Of course, the finding underscores how little we still know about the role of black holes in galaxy formation. It also gives us a tantalizing look at how much promise the satellite held before it was lost.
“It’s a huge loss, because just from that glimpse we can see the wonderful science that might have been over the next five years,” said McNamara. “We had a whole landscape of planned observations and that first glimpse we got with the detector shows the richness of what we could find. There were surely discoveries that would have been made when we opened that window.”
However, considering the things we still need to explore scientists need to keep pushing their limits. Even though there have been many attempts resulting in a loss of a satellite, McNamara is still hopeful to give the world eyes into the unexplored realms of The Universe “We’re hoping we can still get one there.” said McNamara.