Black holes, the winged seeds of our Universe January 8, 2009Posted by dorigo in astronomy, cosmology, news, science.
Tags: black holes, galaxies, universe
From Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” (1819), one of my favourite poems:
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odors plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!
The winged seeds -of galaxies, and ultimately of everything that there is to see in our Universe- appear today to be black holes: this is what emerges from the studies of Chris Carilli, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). In a press release of January 6th, Carilli explains that the evidence that black holes are antecedent to galaxy formation is piling up.
In a nutshell, there appears to be a constant ratio between the mass of objects like galaxies and giant globular clusters and the black hole they contain at their center. This has been known for a while -I learned it at a intriguing talk by Al Stebbins at the “Outstanding Questions in Cosmology” conference, in March 2007 at the Imperial College of London. But what has been discovered more recently is that the very oldest objects contain more massive black holes than expected, a sign that black holes started growing earlier than their surroundings.
This is incredibly interesting, and I confess I had always suspected it, when looking at the beautiful spiral galaxies, attracted in a giant vortex by their massive center. I think this realization is a true gate to a deeper understanding of our Universe and its formation. A thought today goes to Louise, who has always held that black holes have a special role in the formation of our Universe.