Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 6: February 1979

Issue Contents

Other pages











Supermasses That Come And Go

Quasars, black holes, violently active Seyfert galaxies, jets of matter expelled from galaxies, and many similar puzzles of modern astronomy fall into place (and reason) if one unthinkable assumption is made: the cyclic appearance and disappearance of supermasses inside galaxies. Normal galaxies seem to have masses of about 1011 times that of the sun. The unthinkable assumption suggests that every 108 years or so, these ordinary, unassuming galaxies become supermassive (about 1013 solar masses) for several million years.

When the core of a galaxy becomes supermassive, its stars are tugged into tight new orbits. The subsequent switching off of the supermass allows the galaxy to expand outwards again. The author claims to have found just such expansion effects among the globular clusters in our own galaxy. His data are striking and quite convincing. The notorious "missing mass" problem of cosmology disappears with the cyclic supermass assumption because the time-averaged mass of each galaxy will be much higher than that observed in its normal enervated state.

Doesn't this sudden temporary appearance of mass violate the laws of physics? No, says the author, physicists habitually assume a superfluid, superconducting vacuum state, which is the ultimate source of all mass-energy, when they develop their theories of fundamental particles. If particle physicists can (and must) evoke such magic, so can astronomers.

(Clube, Victor; "Do We Need a Revolution in Astronomy?" New Scientist, 80: 284, 1978.)

Comment. The magic of supermassive injections is, of course, no more magical than the existence of gravitational force or God.

From Science Frontiers #6, February 1979. � 1979-2000 William R. Corliss