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Thursday, June 18, 1998 Published at 21:25 GMT 22:25 UK


Hubble finds huge black hole

The Hubble photograph shows the debris surrounding the huge black hole

The Hubble Space Telescope has done it again, this time taking a dramatic picture of a disk of debris circling a black hole embedded in a distant galaxy. Our science correspondent David Whitehouse reports:

The image of the central region of the galaxy NGC 7052 looks so small but the true scale of the features seen within it is staggering.

Hubble has seen a gigantic disk of debris at the core of a distant galaxy. It is believed that this disk is the wreckage of an ancient galaxy collision. In the distant future, it will be swallowed by the black hole.

[ image: NGC 7052: a giant so-called elliptical galaxy]
NGC 7052: a giant so-called elliptical galaxy
The disk is 3,700 light years across. For comparison, the nearest star to our sun is just four light years away.

Calculations based on the rotational velocity of the disk indicate that it is spinning around a black hole that is 300 million times more massive than our sun.

The disk contains enough raw material to make three-million sun-like stars.

The bright spot in the centre of the disk is the combined light of stars that have crowded around the central black hole due to its strong pull of gravity.

NGC 7052 is a giant so-called elliptical galaxy. It is a different class of galaxy from our own Milky Way. It is believed that ellipticals form from the merger of many smaller galaxies that took place when the universe was young.

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