The story of a supermassive black hole who didn’t own a bathroom scale

In the very most distant corner of the universe, there once was this little black hole, as black as any of the darkest souls. Actually it was a pretty huge black hole. Massive. SUPERmassive as the matter of fact, almost like superman, except it was much cooler. First of all, it wasn’t wearing it’s underwear outside its pants, and second it was much bigger and much heavier than superman, with it’s mass of a billion solar masses. Well approximately a billion solar masses.

The SMBH did not own any bathroom scale, and hence it had no idea how much it actually did weight. Maybe some thousand solar masses if it was a small SMBH or maybe hundreds of thousands billions of solar masses if it was a larger one [1]. It had no idea, and neither did it like to be compared to the little bright star, that some living creatures called the sun. The sun was such a tiny, young thing, it was picture perfect and really had a body of a model, while the SMBH just felt huge and heavy in comparison. “Nobody ever uses ME as a model”, it muttered to itself. “Also, it’s probably because I’m black”.

Since the SMBH did not know it mass and actually didn’t even know it’s size either, it even had no idea whether it actually had a healthy BMI. It did try to get its daily exercise though, by actively swirling huge masses of gas surrounding it (even though “daily” didn’t really make any sense to it, but sometimes you just gotta do, what you gotta do, right?)

It would try compare itself to a neighbouring SMBH inside the quasar J0159+0105 [2] with a mass of 1.3*10^8 solar masses and a size of approximately 50 daylights for the broad line region, which gave a BMI of approximately 1.5*10^8 kg/m^2 – but was that a healthy number? Should it not be below 25? It did seem a little bit high …

“I wish someone could tell me how large my mass actually was”, the SMBH pondered to itself. “And maybe whether I look fat in this suit”, it said looking at the torus gas cloud surrounding it.

The SMBH was living closely surrounded by it’s very bright friend, the quasar. The quasar was just as bright as the SMBH was dark. Together they were the center of their very own universe, or rather, their very own galaxy, floating and spiraling on a journey through the universe.

While the SMBH preferred to lurk in it’s own shadows, almost swallowing itself in the attempt to avoid the party, the bright quasar was quite opposite. It shined with a luminosity about 4 trillion times the above mentioned sun [3], and enjoyed being the center of any attention that anyone would like to give it.

And while the SMBH had low self esteem because of its heavy mass and its almost non-existent chances of ever becoming a model like the sun, the quasar on the other hand was shining through and feeling exceptional energetic and unstoppable. “I am Quasar, hear me roar!”. It did not actually roar, like you would expect it to – but you could almost hear it across the universe, in it’s own radio emitting language. If you could only translate it into lion language, I am sure it would pretty much sound like a roar.

Meanwhile the SMBH sulked in inside the quasar, like a devouring hole, trying to eat it’s quasar friend from the inside.

One day the Quasar has had it. “Enough!” it proclaimed, while blowing a magnificent fume of high speed particles through a blazar jet. (“Nevermore”, a raven echoed somewhere on a planet named earth, and some dude named Edgar wrote it down, but that’s a whole different story [4]). “Enough with the sulking already. We are going to get your mass and all of the other masses of our dear SMBH friends in the universe measured, and you’ll see – your BMI is perfectly fine I’m sure”.

The SMBH almost lightened up a bit, but it did not really, it was just some gas orbiting around its  event horizon, which made it seem so. Nevertheless, it did continue as if nothing had been said, pretending it didn’t care and that it didn’t matter, but the quasar knew that its friends inner darkness did not always reflect its actual mood and that something actually did matter quite much, even though the matter was hiding in the darkness. And so the quasar started sending out signals to whoever might want to measure or calculate the masses of several black holes.

Time passed. Several billion years passed actually, but the quasar was really patient. Time did not really exist in its mind, since it was so heavy and even heavier considering the black kernel inside it, that time bend around it, making the time seem to pass rather fast. In the blink of its imaginary eye, it seemed like a billion years, maybe more [5],  have passed in the outer world before somewhere else in the universe, some human beings had read the signals and decided – like out of the blue – to measure the masses of some SMBHs.

“Why are we doing this again?”, one student asked, while trying to understand the calculations.
“Because we want to know!”

But the real answer was of course, because they were manipulated by the signals of the distant quasar signals from the even more distant past of more than a billion years. “Measure me!” The signals insisted subconsciously. “Measure the mass of my SMBH friend. And all of our friends”. And so the students did. They worked day and night, until their hard work payed of. Maybe even two days and two nights – nobody really cares about that kind of time frame in the scale of the universe.

<insert what the students actually did and what they’ve found out here, and the BMI of the SMBH – did it actually look good in it’s bathing suit for bathing in the light of its Quasar with the Torus of dusty gas around it?>

And they all lived happily ever after, until the end of the illusion of time. Well, almost. The quasars of the universe were happy for a while, but in the end, the black holes inside them sucked all the energy out of every single one of them, leaving the space surrounding them dark, empty and apparently completely soulless. Yes, so it seemed. What was really going on inside of the black holes, was a whole different story, and their well kept secret, not to be discovered until a few billion years from now, on the human time scale.

To be continued in a few billion years (or like now, if you are a photon).

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