Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How to build a middleweight black hole: New model for intermediate black hole formation parallels growth of giant planets

Date:
July 19, 2012
Source:
American Museum of Natural History
Summary:
A new model shows how an elusive type of black hole can be formed in the gas surrounding their supermassive counterparts. In new research, scientists propose that intermediate-mass black holes -- light-swallowing celestial objects with masses ranging from hundreds to many thousands of times the mass of the sun -- can grow in the gas disks around supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.

This simulated image shows the interaction between a massive gas giant planet (comparable in mass to Jupiter) and a surrounding protoplanetary disk of gas and dust. New research predicts that intermediate-mass black holes can create gaps in gas disks around supermassive black holes, analogous to the gaps produced by giant planets in disks around stars. The gap provides a signature that might give scientists the first glimpse of this elusive type of black hole.
Credit: Phil Armitage, University of Colorado

A new model shows how an elusive type of black hole can be formed in the gas surrounding their supermassive counterparts.

In research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, the City University of New York, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics propose that intermediate-mass black holes -- light-swallowing celestial objects with masses ranging from hundreds to many thousands of times the mass of the Sun -- can grow in the gas disks around supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. The physical mechanism parallels the model astrophysicists use to describe the growth of giant planets in the gas disks surrounding stars.

"We know about small black holes, which tend to be close to us and have masses a few to 10 times that of our Sun, and we know about supermassive black holes, which are found in the centers of galaxies and have a mass that's millions to billions of times the mass of the sun," said coauthor Saavik Ford, who is a research associate in the Museum's Department of Astrophysics as well as a professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York (CUNY) and a faculty member at CUNY's Graduate Center. "But we have no evidence for the middle stage. Intermediate-mass black holes are much harder to find."

The birth of an intermediate black hole starts with the death of a star that forms a stellar or low-mass black hole. In order for this "seed" to grow, it must collide with and consume other dead and living stars. But even though there are many billions of stars in large galaxies, there's an even greater proportion of empty space, making collisions a very rare occurrence.

The researchers' new model suggests that previous searches for middleweight black holes might have been focused on the wrong birthing ground.

"The recent focus had been on star clusters, but objects there move very quickly and there's no gas, which makes the chances of a collision very slim," said Barry McKernan, a research associate in the Museum's Department of Astrophysics who is a professor at CUNY's Borough of Manhattan Community College and a faculty member at CUNY's Graduate Center.

The new mechanism turns attention instead to active galactic nuclei, the piping hot and ultra-bright cores of galaxies that feed supermassive black holes. The gas in this system is key, causing the stars to slow down and conform to a circularized orbit.

"You can think of the stars as cars traveling on a 10-lane highway," McKernan said. "If there were no gas, the cars would be going at very different speeds and mostly staying in their lanes, making the odds of collision low. When you add gas, it slows the cars to matching speeds but also moves them into other lanes, making the odds of collision and consumption much higher."

The resulting collisions allow a stellar black hole to swallow stars and grow. The black hole's size and gravitational pull increase as its mass expands, escalating its chance of further collisions. This phenomenon, called "runaway growth," can lead to the creation of an intermediate-mass black hole.

As they increase in size, the black holes start altering the gas disk that controls them. The researchers' model shows that black holes of a certain mass can create a gap in the gas disk, a signature that might give scientists the first glimpse of intermediate black holes.

The model describing this growth is a scaled-up version of the mechanism for the formation of gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn. Like intermediate black holes, these planets are thought to have grown in gas disks. The planets, though, developed in disks surrounding newly forming stars. Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, chair of the Department of Astrophysics at the Museum, has modeled that case.

"In some regions, we showed that rocky planets could be moved by the gas into common orbits, where they collide to form objects more than ten times the mass of the Earth, massive enough to attract gas and form gas giant planets," Mac Low said. "The creative work described here applies the same principles to the far more massive disks found at the centers of galaxies, to form black holes rather than giant planets."

Other authors on the paper include Museum research associate Wladimir Lyra from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology and Hagai Perets from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

This work was supported in part by NASA and CUNY.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Museum of Natural History. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. McKernan, K. E. S. Ford, W. Lyra, H. B. Perets. Intermediate mass black holes in AGN discs - I. Production and growth. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2012.21486.x

Cite This Page:

American Museum of Natural History. "How to build a middleweight black hole: New model for intermediate black hole formation parallels growth of giant planets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120719105032.htm>.
American Museum of Natural History. (2012, July 19). How to build a middleweight black hole: New model for intermediate black hole formation parallels growth of giant planets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120719105032.htm
American Museum of Natural History. "How to build a middleweight black hole: New model for intermediate black hole formation parallels growth of giant planets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120719105032.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil. It has announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins