The galaxy designated NGC 1277 has been known since 1875, and is approximately 220 million light years away. Its recently-discovered claim to fame is the supermassive black hole at its centre. Such black holes are not themselves strange (every galaxy is believed to have one), and even the fact that NGC 1227’s is either the largest or second largest known is not what’s important here. Instead, the strange thing is that this particular black hole makes up about 14% of the mass of the entire galaxy – compare that to the usual figure of 0.1% for most galaxies, and 0.01% for our own. In the above video lead author Remco van den Bosch explains the discovery, or alternatively you can read this Max Planck Institute press release, the relevant page at van den Bosch’s website, Phil Plait’s article at Bad Astronomy, or the paper itself (arXiv preprint here).
Now, there is a vague correlation between the mass of a black hole and that of its host galaxy. I say vague for two reasons: first, because we haven’t measured (and can’t measure) this information for all that many galaxies as they need to be fairly close to us for our methods to work; and second, because this galaxy makes quite the exception, doesn’t it? This subject comes up because Brian Thomas’ latest article is called Massive Black Hole Disrupts Galaxy Formation Theories – which is true, actually, to a certain way of looking at it.
The standard reaction from secular astronomers who observe oddball galaxies is to admit that their theories on how galaxies form need revision. As an example, Princeton University cosmologist Jim Peebles told New Scientist in 2011, “Galaxies are complicated and we don’t really understand how they form. It’s really an embarrassment.” This was in response to newfound galaxies that were inexplicably flat, without the expected central bulge of stars.
The much more practical point of view here is explained by Dr Plait:
We’re seeing the tip of the iceberg here, so to speak, showing us that something is going on, and teasing us with what it might be. Scientists love a puzzle.
And sometimes, it’s the exceptions that force us to examine the rules. We have several hypotheses about why the black holes and galaxies would have correlated masses, but we’re not sure which one is correct. We need outliers like NGC 1277 to shows us which ideas won’t work so that we can either modify them or throw them away and find ones that work better.
Just because we don’t know doesn’t mean that we never will. What’s more, the fact that there even is a correlation suggests that there really is something going on. If galaxies were created as they appear today via the “outside help” (as Thomas oddly puts it) of God then there would be no reason for the correlation to even exist, and yet it does.
As seems to be common with astronomy-related articles B.T. goes on to list further things that science supposedly cannot explain:
Astronomers offered similar responses to discovering what they consider mature-looking galaxies in some of the most distant reaches of space—places that supposedly represent the early universe. The problem with them is that the universe had not been around long enough to form those “mature” spiral galaxies under their own assumptions.
Naturally, these stories are more than a little mangled: the galaxy discovery he cites is not of a spiral, so far as we can tell.
Galaxies also have magnetic fields that have not yet been explained in the context of “billions of years” dogma.
The reference for this claim is to the September Acts & Facts article by Jason Lisle that keeps coming up, and which says no such thing. It does talk about the magnetic fields of gas clouds, contending that they prevent the formation of stars, but that’s another matter entirely.
The Nature study authors admitted that although these relatively nearby galaxies are uncommon in local space, “They are quantitatively similar to the typical red, passive galaxies at much earlier times [much more distant space].”
Thomas’ insertion here harkens back to the whole redshift business from last week, if you are wondering where it came from.
But if galactic evolution is true, then the faraway “younger” ones should not have evolutionarily matured and the nearby older ones should appear mature. But like spiral galaxies and short-lived blue stars, these big black hole galaxies are found both near and far with the same levels of apparent maturity. It is as if they are parts of a fully formed and purposefully displayed stellar creation.
The “near and far” claim is again cited to Lisle’s article, and again the article does not talk about what Thomas says it does. And no, it’s not true. When we find unexpectedly mature galaxies at great distances (and therefore time before the present) they are unexpected because they buck a more general trend. The star formation study, even if you were to refuse to believe it’s conclusions, still showed that there is a clear trend of intensity at a certain wavelength that relates to galactic distance. And Thomas’ Nature quote is, in full:
Whereas the six compact galaxies presented in Table 1 are unusual and rare in the present-day universe, they are, interestingly enough, quantitatively similar to the typical red, passive, galaxies at much earlier times (at redshifts z ~ 2): those are also found, on average, to be smaller than similarly massive galaxies in the present-day universe, possibly possess high velocity dispersions, and generally have a disk-like structure.
(Bolded section is what Thomas reproduced). This is, again, a trend. And a trend means that Thomas’ “same levels of apparent maturity” is wrong.
He concludes with an interesting analogy:
Just as evolutionary biologists would prefer to find creatures along a morphological continuum that could better justify their axiom that all living things descended from a single common ancestor, evolutionary astronomers would prefer to find galaxies along a morphological continuum. Instead, creatures and galaxies both occur as distinct and separate creations that refuse to fit evolutionary scenarios. Distinct-looking galaxies found throughout space confound the assumption that galaxies form by nature alone.
Thomas is jumping to conclusions here, both about the galaxies and about the scientists. Finding only what you expect is boring – but unexpected things can still be explained.
A couple of things I forgot to mention yesterday:
First, the reason why there was no Friday post here is that the article they put up was almost identical to the YOM post we looked at on Thursday, so there really wasn’t much point. Secondly, I was actually forewarned nearly two weeks ago by a “Mister Spak” that the Grand Canyon dating issue would be the “ICRs next target.” Let it be known that, at one-for-one, Spak’s prediction record is significantly better than mine. For example, I could have sworn that they would go after this recent miRNA discovery, but it seems not…