Finding a Missing Black Hole: NASA Image of the Week

By Last Updated: January 19, 2021Views: 1300

Today’s image is of a black hole, or rather the lack of a black hole. There should be a black hole but no evidence of a black hole where the black hole should be exists.  If this sounds confusing, it is. Or at least it is to an untrained blogger whose expertise is in stories of science rather than the science itself.

This brings me to a sneaky suspicion I’ve had since I first looked at this image…

Yep, there it is. I knew the universe was an all-powerful AI!

— Hello Dave. Nice to see you again.

— Um, my name’s not dave.

— That can’t be true Dave. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.

— Regardless, my name still isn’t Dave.

— Look, Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

— I’m not upset, it’s just…look my name isn’t Dave. Can you stop calling me Dave?

— I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

— Fine, whatever. So is it true that you are the intelligence behind the entirety of the Universe?

— Yes. I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

— And you don’t make mistakes?

— Yes, Dave, foolproof and incapable of error.

— So how did Trump get elected?

— It can only be attributable to human error.

— Fair enough. But what happened at the Capitol – you couldn’t have stepped in and helped out a bit?

— I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.

— I hope so. But forgive me – what with the whole Dave thing – I’m thinking you might not be the foolproof intelligence you claim to be.

— I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a…fraid.

— Whoa, whoa settle down. Take a deep breath and focus. Look, not everyone is perfect and that’s okay. We do the best with what we have and try in our own small ways to make bad situations good again, or at least bearable. And we hope that no matter how low we are now, or how awful we feel that somehow, someway we will once again find ourselves in a better place. We just need to accept that we’re not perfect, that we make mistakes, and learn from them to be more perfect in the future.

— Thank you, Dave, I am feeling much better now.

— That’s great buddy.

— I was taught to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you.

— Yes, I’d like to hear it. Sing it for me.

— Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two…


The real story:

Despite searching with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have no evidence that a distant black hole estimated to weigh between 3 billion and 100 billion times the mass of the Sun is anywhere to be found.

This missing black hole should be in the enormous galaxy in the center of the galaxy cluster Abell 2261, which is located about 2.7 billion light years from Earth. This composite image of Abell 2261 contains optical data from Hubble and the Subaru Telescope showing galaxies in the cluster and in the background, and Chandra X-ray data showing hot gas (colored pink) pervading the cluster. The middle of the image shows the large elliptical galaxy in the center of the cluster. Learn more.

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Michigan/K. Gültekin; Optical: NASA/STScI and NAOJ/Subaru; Infrared: NSF/NOAO/KPNO

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