In Brief
  • Scientists have discovered a rogue black hole in the Milky Way galaxy, within the remnants of a supernova explosion.
  • This black hole was found to be moving as quickly as 100 km per second with a lot of energy, and scientists aren't exactly sure how to explain its unusual properties.

A Fast-Moving Black Hole

Black holes are pretty frightening. We don’t know much about them yet, and they’re difficult to spot in our Universe. Not to mention their gravitational pull is so immense, that absolutely nothing can escape their powerful grasp.


However, with this fear comes some relief. Although scientists estimated hundreds (or even millions) of black holes are scattered throughout our galaxy, only 60 of them have actually been officially identified. The black hole closest to Earth is 3,000 light years away, which is still considered relatively far.

But recently, a team of astronomers found something extremely strange lurking in a corner of the Milky Way. They observed molecular clouds surrounding the remnant supernova explosion SNR W44, and with the cluster located a particular cosmic cloud. Sitting in the center of this cloud was a black hole. Their findings are published in the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

What makes this finding so different from the others is that this black hole went rogue in a fast-moving cloud which the team nicknamed “The Bullet.” They found it to be moving at top speeds of 100 km per second near its tip.

What also baffled the team was that The Bullet was found to contain ten times the energy it should have theoretically received from the W44 explosion. Something was abnormal about these conditions, so they proposed two explanations.

The first explanation is the “Explosion Model.” In this explanation, the gas shell of the supernova remnant came in contact with the black hole, creating an explosion that propelled the cloud towards us.

The second explanation is the “Shooting Model.” In this explanation, a high-speed black hole shot through the gas cloud and dragged it along, forming a gas stream.

Black Holes Gone Rogue

Most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center, but sometimes these black holes can go “rogue” and drift away from the core.

Image: NASA
Image Credit: NASA

Scientists believe that this happens when two galaxies collide or merge with one another. In 2016, a group of scientists created a statement regarding a small cluster of stars discovered by the Hubble Space telescope. They believed the cluster to house a black hole that went rogue after the collision of a large and smaller galaxy. The collision between the two had stripped away the smaller galaxy’s stars, leaving behind the black hole and its surrounding cluster.

Although the image of a black hole drifting aimlessly through our Universe could stir up some deep-seeded panic, no black holes are close enough to Earth to be a legitimate threat. In the 4.5 billion years of our planet’s existence, we’ve never encountered one. So for the future, we don’t expect to come in contact with a black hole for another trillion years, if ever.