HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — Dr. Dirk Grupe is an associate professor and chair at Northern Kentucky University. He enjoys diving into research and science, but knows it's not for everybody.
“Day-to-day, work you do in data analysis is pretty tedious and sometimes kind of boring because it’s very repetitive,” Grupe said.
But that’s something that’s paid off for him recently. Grupe is part of an international collaborative effort to further research a massive black hole. The group is led by Stefanie Komossa from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany. They’re watching a black hole in another galaxy nearly 5.1 billion light years away. It’s an effort he said began in 2015, by watching different modeled predictions.
The findings of the team show models that favor a smaller black hole mass than previously thought.
“This was thought — this was the fifth largest black hole in the universe. Turns out it’s probably not,” Grupe said.
He said the black hole was originally thought to exceed 10 billion solar masses. Turns out, it is actually believed to be the size of 100 million solar masses.
The team used some different tools, including the Effelsberg radio telescope and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory to test this. Now, it could allow for a better understanding of the galaxy this black hole lies at the center of.
“The thing is now that we know the black hole mass is smaller, this also means the whole region, these active galactic nuclears is sitting in is much smaller as well because everything scales with the black hole mass,” Grupe said.
Findings also show a second black hole exists, orbiting the primary black hole. Grupe said there could be a merger many years down the road of the two.
It’s research he’s spent almost a decade on so far, and he’s proud to be rewarded for his findings.
“It makes me really proud working on a project like this. It’s exciting if you do a discovery like this — it doesn’t happen every day,” he said.
NKU reports this team’s resesarch has been accepted into the Monthly Notices of The Royal Astronomical Society and the Astrophysical Journal.