Astronomers theorize that a black
hole forms when a massive object
shrinks catastrophically under its own
gravity, leaving only a gravitational
field so strong that nothing escapes it.
Astronomers must infer the existence
of black holes, which are invisible,
from their gravitational influence on
the visible bodies surrounding them.
For example, observations indicate
that gas clouds in galaxy M87 are
whirling unusually fast about the galaxy’s
center. Most astronomers
believe that the large concentration
of mass at the galaxy’s center is a
black hole whose gravity is causing
the gas to whirl. A few skeptics have
argued that the concentration of mass
necessary to explain the speed of the
whirling gas is not necessarily a black
hole: the concentration in M87 might
be a cluster of a billion or so dim stars.
The same hypothesis might have
been applied to the galaxy NGC 4258,
but the notion of such a cluster’s
existing in NGC 4258 was severely
undermined when astronomers measured
the speed of a ring of dust and
gas rotating close to the galaxy’s
center. From its speed, they calculated
that the core’s density is more
than 40 times the density estimated
for any other galaxy. If the center of
NGC 4258 were a star cluster, the
stars would be so closely spaced
that collisions between individual
stars would have long ago torn the
The skeptics mentioned in the first paragraph would be most likely to agree with the astronomers mentioned in line 13 about which of the following statements concerning the galaxy M87?
A. The speed of the gas whirling around the center of M87 is caused by a dense object that is not a black hole.
B. The concentration of mass at the center of M87 is probably a large cluster of dim stars.
C. The presence of a black hole at the center of M87 is the most likely explanation for the speed of the gas whirling about the galaxy’s core.
D. The speed of the gas whirling around the center of M87 is caused by a large concentration of mass at the core of M87.
E. The gravitational influence of a star cluster would not be strong enough to account for the speed of the gas whirling around the core of M87.
The passage asserts which of the following about the existence of black holes?
A. Astronomers first speculated about the existence of black holes when they observed gas whirling around the center of a particular galaxy.
B. Evidence used to argue for the existence of black holes is indirect, coming from their presumed effects on other astronomical bodies.
C. Recent observations of certain astronomical bodies have offered proof.
D. A considerable body of evidence suggests the existence of black holes, even though their behavior is not completely consistent with the laws of physics.
E. Many astronomers are skeptical about certain recent evidence that has been used to argue for the existence of black holes.
Which of the following, if true, would most clearly undermine the possible explanation for the whirling gas in M87 that is mentioned in the last sentence of the first paragraph?
A. The stars in a star cluster at the center of M87 could exert a strong gravitational force without tearing the cluster apart.
B. A cluster of stars at the center would preclude the existence of certain other astronomical phenomena that have been observed at the center of M87.
C. The stars within many existing galaxies, such as NGC 4258, are more closely spaced than are the stars within the core of M87.
D. Only one other galaxy has been observed to contain gas clouds whirling about its center as they do about the core of M87.
E. The gravitational force of a cluster of a billion or so dim stars would be sufficient to cause a whirling ring of gas and dust to collect around the center of a galaxy.