Tiny galaxy has huge black hole at its center, gives clues to galactic evolution

tiny galaxy supermassive black hole a with big heart
Nestled within this field of bright foreground stars lies ESO 495-21, a tiny galaxy with a big heart. ESO 495-21 is just 3000 light-years across, a fraction of the size of the Milky Way, but that is not stopping the galaxy from furiously forming huge numbers of stars. There are also indicators for a supermassive black hole in its center — an unusual component for a galaxy of its size. ESA/Hubble, NASA

This image gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 shows the tiny galaxy ESO 495-21, located 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Pyxis (the Compass).

The galaxy is only 3000 light-years across, which is just a fraction of the size of the Milky Way at 100,000 light-years across. But it could hold the clue to unraveling a longstanding question about the evolution of galaxies over time, and what causes a galaxy to grow.

Despite its small size, ESO 495-21 is thought to host a feature usually found in much larger galaxies — a supermassive black hole. These huge black holes sit right in the middle of galaxies and gobble up dust and gas which comes close to them, like the one at the center of our Milky Way. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the galaxy, the bigger its supermassive black hole. But this little galaxy bucks that trend, seeming to have a black hole at its heart which is over a million times as massive as our Sun.

The possible presence of this black hole could help astronomers understand the way in which galaxies evolve. Currently, they are not sure about how the supermassive black holes develop — it could be that the black holes appear first and then galaxies form around them, or it could be that the presence of many stars forming a galaxy pushes mass together and creates the black hole.

As ESO 495-21 is small and has a high rate of star formation, it is thought to be similar to the galaxies which existed in the earliest stages of the universe. In that case, the fact it seems to have a large black hole suggests that the supermassive black holes develop first, and the galaxies around them form later.

Product Review

Samsung's $99 fitness tracker takes on Fitbit. Can it keep pace?

Samsung’s going toe-to-toe against Fitbit’s Inspire HR with its own $99 fitness tracker -- the Galaxy Fit. It also has a heart rate monitor, can automatically detect six workouts, and has a battery that can last for days.
Mobile

The Galaxy Note 10 might not be equipped with Qualcomm's most powerful processor

The Samsung Galaxy S10 range isn't exactly old, but Samsung is already working on the next big release. Details about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 are making their way online, and we've gathered them all for you.
Deals

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 gets a 35% price cut for Prime Day

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is currently the latest model in the Galaxy Note range that normally lists for $1,000, but this is no ordinary day. You can get the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for just $650 with Amazon's Prime Day deal.
Emerging Tech

Hubble spots unexpected disc around supermassive black hole

Hubble has discovered something odd: A disc of material around a supermassive black hole which was thought to be starving. The black hole in question lies at the center of the galaxy NGC 3147, 130 million light-years away from Earth.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX finally knows what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode

SpaceX and NASA say they finally know what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode during an April test of the spacecraft’s thruster system. It's now unlikely that the capsule will be used for crewed spaceflight before the end of the…
Emerging Tech

This compact drone gun can down a rogue quadcopter at 500 meters

The latest drone gun from DroneShield is its most compact yet and can be easily operated with one hand. The DroneGun MkIII can tackle rogue drones up to 500 meters away, using jamming technology to take control of the machine.
Emerging Tech

Space food: Humble chili pepper to become first fruit grown in space

The Española chili pepper could become the first fruiting plant to be grown and harvested in space. If successful, it will expand the range of foods able to be used for future, more ambitious missions to planets such as Mars.
Emerging Tech

Photorealistic A.I. tool can fill in gaps in images, including faces

Researchers have developed a smart new A.I. system which can accurately fill in blank areas in an image, whether that’s a missing face or the front of a building. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

See how a life-sized astronaut was built from LEGO bricks

LEGO has unveiled a life-sized model of an astronaut constructed entirely from bricks, as well as a time lapse video of the model being built. It is based on the suit Neil Armstrong wore when he made his historic small step.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Twitter’s redesign, Libra’s possible delay, Neuralink

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including a Twitter redesign, Facebook's delay of Libra, Neuralink's first public event, growing food in space, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to start operating on human brains next year

Elon Musk shed more light on his Neuralink company on Tuesday, revealing new technology for brain surgery that would allow people with paralysis to use thoughts to control smartphones and computers. But that wasn't all ...
Emerging Tech

It sounds like utter madness, but you can now buy a flamethrower drone

The TF-19 WASP Flamethrower Drone is a quadcopter attachment for drones which, according to its creators, 'allows users to ignite aerial and ground targets from miles away.' What could go wrong?
Emerging Tech

Genetically modified plants could help get to the root of climate change

Researchers have been investigating ways to engineer plants so that they grow with more robust and deeper roots, capable of storing increasing amounts of carbon underground for longer.
Photography

With object tracking, the lightweight DJI Ronin-SC is still heavy on features

Designed for mirrorless cameras, the DJI Ronin-SC packs several features from the Ronin-S -- and then some -- into a lighter, one-handed gimbal. Despite the smaller size, the DJI Ronin-S adds new object tracking and expanded remote control.