"It's hard to believe that a supermassive black hole weighing millions of times the mass of the sun could be moved at all, let alone kicked out of a galaxy at enormous speed," said Francesca Civano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led the study.
Observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory suggest the black hole collided and merged with another black hole and received a powerful recoil kick from gravitational wave radiation resulting from the collision sufficient to push the merged black hole out of the galaxy.
"[These] new data support the idea that gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of space first predicted by Albert Einstein but never detected directly -- can exert an extremely powerful force," Civano said in a release from the Chandra headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
The finding could mean there are giant black holes roaming undetected out in the vast spaces between galaxies, researchers said.
"These black holes would be invisible to us," study co-author Laura Blecha said, "because they have consumed all of the gas surrounding them after being thrown out of their home galaxy."