Supermassive black hole found in tiny galaxy, wowing researchers

A supermassive black hole has been found at the center of a tiny galaxy, a rare find. What makes the discovery even more unique is that it has been located in an ultracompact dwarf galaxy, stunning researchers.

The findings, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, note that the galaxy Fornax UCD3 is part of a set called ultracompact dwarfs (UCDs), a very rare set of galaxies.

"We have discovered a supermassive black hole in the center of Fornax UCD3," said the study's lead author, Anton Afanasiev, in a statement. "The black hole mass is 3.5 million that of the Sun, similar to the central black hole in our own Milky Way."

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UCDs are especially rare, as they are larger, brighter and more massive than other galaxies, including our own Milky Way. What makes the find of the supermassive black hole at the center of the UCD so notable is that UCDs tend to be very small, with radiuses not exceeding 300 light years and an overall mass of several tens of millions of solar masses.

"Similarly to other known UCDs that harbor black holes, UCD3 hosts metal rich stars enhanced in α-elements that support the tidal stripping of a massive progenitor as its likely formation scenario," the study's abstract reads.

By comparison, the Milky Way is about 100,000 light years across, or a radius of 50,000 light years.

The findings were made with data collected from SINFONI, an "infrared integral field spectrograph installed at one of the 8-m VLT telescopes in Chile operated by the European Southern Observatory," according to the statement.

The mass of the supermassive black hole is particularly eye opening as well, approximately 3.5 million times our Sun at its center. This is approximately the same size of the supermassive black hole found in the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*.

The supermassive black hole found is only the fourth one found inside a UCD. At its mass, it accounts for approximately 3 percent of the total mass of the Fornax UCD3 galaxy.

In other, more "normal" galaxies, a supermassive black hole accounts for approximately 0.3 percent of a galaxy's total mass.

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