Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

All-you-can-eat at the end of the universe: How early black holes could have grown to billions of times the mass of our sun

Date:
August 11, 2014
Source:
Weizmann Institute of Science
Summary:
A new model shows how early black holes could have grown to billions of times the mass of our sun. These giant bodies -- quasars -- feed on interstellar gas, swallowing large quantities of it non-stop. Thus they reveal their existence: The light that is emitted by the gas as it is sucked in and crushed by the black hole's gravity travels for eons across the Universe until it reaches our telescopes. Looking at the edges of the Universe is therefore looking into the past. These far-off, ancient quasars appear to us in their "baby photos" taken less than a billion years after the Big Bang: monstrous infants in a young Universe.

A small black hole gains mass: Dense cold gas (green) flows toward the center of a stellar cluster (red cross in blue circle) with stars (yellow); the erratic path of the black hole through the gas (black line) is randomized by the surrounding stars.
Credit: Image courtesy of Weizmann Institute of Science

At the ends of the Universe there are black holes with masses equaling billions of our sun. These giant bodies -- quasars -- feed on interstellar gas, swallowing large quantities of it non-stop. Thus they reveal their existence: The light that is emitted by the gas as it is sucked in and crushed by the black hole's gravity travels for eons across the Universe until it reaches our telescopes. Looking at the edges of the Universe is therefore looking into the past. These far-off, ancient quasars appear to us in their "baby photos" taken less than a billion years after the Big Bang: monstrous infants in a young Universe.

Normally, a black hole forms when a massive star, weighing tens of solar masses, explodes after its nuclear fuel is spent. Without the nuclear furnace at its core pushing against gravity, the star collapses: Much of the material is flung outwards in a great supernova blast, while the rest falls inward, forming a black hole of only about 10 solar masses.

Since these ancient quasars were first discovered, scientists have wondered what process could lead a small black hole to gorge and fatten to such an extent, so soon after the Big Bang.

In fact, several processes tend to limit how fast a black hole can grow. For example, the gas normally does not fall directly into the black hole, but gets sidetracked into a slowly spiraling flow, trickling in drop by drop. When the gas is finally swallowed by the black hole, the light it emits pushes out against the gas. That light counterbalances gravity, and it slows the flow that feeds the black hole.

So how, indeed, did these ancient quasars grow? Prof. Tal Alexander, Head of the Particle Physics and Astrophysics Department, proposes a solution in a paper written together with Prof. Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University, which recently appeared in Science.

Their model begins with the formation of a small black hole in the very early Universe. At that time, cosmologists believe, gas streams were cold, dense, and contained much larger amounts of material than the thin gas streams we see in today's cosmos. The hungry, newborn black hole moved around, changing direction all the time as it was knocked about by other baby stars in its vicinity. By quickly zigzagging, the black hole continually swept up more and more of the gas into its orbit, pulling the gas directly into it so fast, the gas could not settle into a slow, spiraling motion. The bigger the black hole got, the faster it ate; this growth rate, explains Alexander, rises faster than exponentially. After around 10 million years -- a blink of an eye in cosmic time -- the black hole would have filled out to around 10,000 solar masses. From then, the colossal growth rate would have slowed to a somewhat more leisurely pace, but the black hole's future path would already be set -- leading it to eventually weigh in at a billion solar masses or more.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Weizmann Institute of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Alexander, P. Natarajan. Rapid growth of seed black holes in the early universe by supra-exponential accretion. Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1126/science.1251053

Cite This Page:

Weizmann Institute of Science. "All-you-can-eat at the end of the universe: How early black holes could have grown to billions of times the mass of our sun." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140811124824.htm>.
Weizmann Institute of Science. (2014, August 11). All-you-can-eat at the end of the universe: How early black holes could have grown to billions of times the mass of our sun. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140811124824.htm
Weizmann Institute of Science. "All-you-can-eat at the end of the universe: How early black holes could have grown to billions of times the mass of our sun." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140811124824.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Astronomers Spot Largest, Brightest Solar Flare Ever

Astronomers Spot Largest, Brightest Solar Flare Ever

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — The initial blast from the record-setting explosion would have appeared more than 10,000 times more powerful than any flare ever recorded. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Apple Fans Discover the Apple Watch

French Apple Fans Discover the Apple Watch

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) — Apple fans in France discover the latest toy, the Apple Watch. The watch comes in two sizes and an array of interchangeable, fashionable wrist straps. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

Newsy (Sep. 27, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Michigan simulated the birth of planets and our sun to determine whether water in the solar system predates the sun. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, including the first woman cosmonaut in 17 years, blasted off on schedule Friday. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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