I felt silly last week while going through a mild panic about hail hitting my new car. There was no actual damage, and in the larger scheme of things, what’s the difference? I’m planning to keep the car for at least ten years and suck all the value out of it anyway. When it comes time to sell, there will be many more concerns than a few little dimples on the hood. And really, aren’t there much better things to be alarmed about? Just about then, I ran across a NASA Press Release with this title:
Giant Black Hole Kicked Out of Home Galaxy
WASHINGTON — Astronomers have found strong evidence that a massive black hole is being ejected from its host galaxy at a speed of several million miles per hour. New observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory suggest that the black hole collided and merged with another black hole and received a powerful recoil kick from gravitational wave radiation.
“It’s hard to believe that a supermassive black hole weighing millions of times the mass of the sun could be moved at all, let alone kicked out of a galaxy at enormous speed,” said Francesca Civano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), who led the new study. “But these new data support the idea that gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space first predicted by Albert Einstein but never detected directly — can exert an extremely powerful force.”
The press release goes on to say that while this is probably a rare occurrence … “it nevertheless could mean that there are many giant black holes roaming undetected out in the vast spaces between galaxies.” And because they have consumed all the gasses surrounding them, “… these black holes would be invisible to us.”
Thank you NASA! This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for – a new reason to worry about armageddon arriving in a way I have not yet imagined. Black holes absorb everything in their vicinity – even light doesn’t escape. I had become relaxed about the ever-present potential for the sudden, random strike of a massive, undetected asteroid, exploding like a thousand nuclear bombs over my back yard. The odds haven’t changed on that one, but now that I’ve had a few years to factor it into my nightmares, I’m accustomed to that particular level of dread.
A black hole wandering into our galaxy would crush my car and me and all my stuff into something smaller than a hailstone, so let’s get our priorities straight! This exciting new bit of dark information opens up a higher level of paranoia because it combines an existing, somewhat abstract fear of outer space with an old horror film classic – the mad, wandering loner.
The notion that there are orphaned Black Holes roaming the cosmic countryside with nothing to lose means I can marry my trepidation about galactic surprises to my conviction that all strangers are potentially insane and probably homicidal.
It’s not so farfetched. If you had just been ejected by gravitational slingshot from the center of your home galaxy, wouldn’t you nurse a grudge against pretty much everything, but especially against tiny planets where some clueless people place too much importance on a flawless paint job?
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