Teeny Supermassive Black Hole: RGG 118

All About Teeny Supermassive Black Hole: RGG 188

Can you imagine looking for something 340 million light years away?

That’s this many miles away:

  • 1,998,732,626,882,426,628,489 miles

Well, some Astronomers at the University of Michigan and their trusty NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the 6.5-meter Clay Telescope in Chile were able to complete that task.

These Astronomers found something unique and peculiar; a supermassive black hole… what’s special about that? This one is two times smaller than any other supermassive black hole we’ve ever discovered.


The smallest supermassive black hole ever detected in the center of a galaxy.

“RGG 118” by NASA – CHANDRA – http://goo.gl/Pb5oN7. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://goo.gl/fRnd5E


Spoiler Alert: This new Teeny Supermassive Black Hole: RGG 188 will allow Astronomers a view-back into the Universe and observe a supermassive black hole before it collided with other black holes. One might even say, this is a… virgin black hole?

What’s Makes This Black Hole Special?

Astronomers at the University of Michigan have estimated that the newly discovered teeny supermassive black hole RGG 118 is 50,000 times bigger than the mass of our Sun. It is comparatively less than two times the size of the smallest black holes Astronomers have previously found in the center of other galaxies.

Black Holes, Supermassive Black Holes, What?

Well, black holes are categorized into two different sizes, large and really large. A black hole and a supermassive black hole, respectively.

What Is A Black Hole:

  • A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying. Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible.

What Is A Supermassive Black Hole:

  • A supermassive black hole (SMBH) is the largest type of black hole, on the order of hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses, and is found in the center of almost all massive galaxies.

Black holes come in two flavors; supermassive and stellar.

Supermassive black holes are situated in the middle of most (massive) galaxies and Astronomers are still trying to figure out the exact reason for how and why these are formed.



Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, https://flic.kr/p/eKSrMR


A regular old, plane Jane stellar black hole can be found almost anywhere and usually occur when a massive star ends its life and goes Kaboom! For more information on that, check out the Life Cycle of a Massive Star.

Astronomers are using the findings and comparisons between stellar black holes and supermassive black holes to learn how they grow from large to really, really large!

Where Is This RGG 118 Teeny Supermassive, Something Something?

Good question and it’s super obvious; the Galaxy RGG 118, you know the one.

This teeny supermassive black hole is located in the center of the dwarf disk galaxy called RGG 118, it’s only about 340 million light years away from the Milky Way galaxy.

How Do We Know It’s Teeny and Supermassive?

Astronomers have to understand the motion of the cool gas near the center of the galaxy to estimate the overall mass of this supermassive black hole, which is now defined as “teeny”.

To do this, Astronomers at the University of Michigan used the Magellan Telescopes in Chile, a pair of double 21.3 foot (diameter) optical telescopes in Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. They use the visible light data and determine the mass of the black hole.



“Magellan-Telescopes-at-LCO-2014-04-19” by Jan Skowron – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://goo.gl/pkCra9


Additionally, the Scientists working on this project needed even more data. So… they used the Chandra X-ray Observatory to observe X-rays and measure the brightness of the hot gas which was swirling around the black hole, itself.



“Chandra artist illustration” by NASA/CXC/NGST – http://goo.gl/f7sOMI (image link). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://goo.gl/J1ZIa8


So Is This Teeny Supermassive Black Hole Big?

Ugh, yeah, you could say that, or not.

If you’re measuring this supermassive black hole to another black hole, say… the one in the middle of our galaxy; the Milky Way, it’s about 100 times less massive. Hence, teeny supermassive black hole.



Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, https://flic.kr/p/dC9Pus


Compared to other supermassive black holes in other galaxies, it’s more than 100,000 times smaller. Relative to the biggest supermassive black holes ever found, it’s 200,000 times smaller.

Compared to our Sun, it’s massive, literally. It’s nearly 50,000 times the mass of our Son, so supermassive in that sense.

What To Expect In The Future?

Well, Scientists and Astronomers will continue to research these teeny supermassive black holes. It’s like a time machine back into the history of the Universe.

RGG 118 is like looking back 13 billion years, its galaxy’s supermassive black hole is helping us understand what supermassive black holes are like before they collide and merge with other black holes.



Featured image by: Stuart Rankin, https://flic.kr/p/tvt7tX

We strive to create amazing and unique content about all things related to Space and Astronomy.

Leave a Reply

Next Article10 Most Expensive Space Initiatives