A 3 billion solar mass black hole rockets out of a galaxy at 8 million kilometers per hour. Yes, seriously.


[Artist concept of a black hole in a starry background. Credit: NASA, ESA, D. Coe, G. Bacon (STScI)]

In astronomy, you deal with a lot of ridiculously violent cosmic phenomena. Stars explode, asteroids collide, whole galaxies smash together. When you look at the math and physics, when you actually grasp the levels of power involved, it’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s chaos wielded on a mind-crushing scale.

And then there’s the “two supermassive black holes colliding and merging and then launching the resulting even larger billion-solar-mass black hole out of a galaxy at nearly 8 million kilometers per hour due to gravitational waves” scale of immensity.

Holy. WOW.

The story here starts with a relatively innocuous-looking galaxy. Called 3C 186, it’s a fuzzy blob even in the most powerful telescopes, but don’t be fooled: It’s 8 billion light-years away, a distance vast enough to shrink even the mightiest galaxy to a smear of light.

Even using Hubble, it doesn’t look like much:

Chris Alexakisart