Breakthrough in deciphering the birth of supermassive black holes

A research team led by scientists from Cardiff University reports that they have come closer to understanding how a supermassive black hole (SMBH) is born. This was made possible thanks to a new technique that allowed scientists to consider the “detail” of one of these mysterious space objects. The results of the study were published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Scientists are not sure whether supermassive black holes were formed in extreme conditions shortly after the big bang, in a process called “direct collapse.” Or they arose much later, from the “initial” black holes that appeared as a result of the death of massive stars.

  • If the first option were true, supermassive black holes would be born with extremely large masses – hundreds of thousands or millions of times more massive than our Sun – and would have a fixed minimum size.
    If the second variant of occurrence were correct, then supermassive black holes would at first be relatively small. Their mass was approximately 100 times the mass of our Sun in this case, and began to grow over time, eating stars and gas clouds located around them.Astronomers have long sought to find supermassive black holes with the smallest mass. They are the missing links necessary to decipher the problem of the origin of SMBH.
  • In a study published today, a team led by Cardiff said they found one of the smallest SMBHs by the mass of particles ever observed in the center of a nearby galaxy and which would weigh a million times less than the mass of the Sun. This supermassive black hole is located in the galaxy NGC 404 – “The Phantom of the World.” She got this name because of her proximity to a very bright star named Mirah, who casts a shadow on the galaxy.

The results were obtained using a new technique using a complex of radio telescopes located in the Chilean desert of Atacama. He who observes electromagnetic radiation with a millimeter and a submillimeter wavelength is called ALMA. It is used to study light from some of the coldest objects in the universe.

A research team led by scientists from Cardiff University reports that they have come closer to understanding how a supermassive black hole (SMBH) is born. This was made possible thanks to a new technique that allowed scientists to consider the “detail” of one of these mysterious space objects. The results of the study were published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.



Scientists are not sure whether supermassive black holes were formed in extreme conditions shortly after the big bang, in a process called “direct collapse.” Or they arose much later, from the “initial” black holes that appeared as a result of the death of massive stars.

If the first option were true, supermassive black holes would be born with extremely large masses – hundreds of thousands or millions of times more massive than our Sun – and would have a fixed minimum size.
If the second variant of occurrence were correct, then supermassive black holes would at first be relatively small. Their mass was approximately 100 times the mass of our Sun in this case, and began to grow over time, eating stars and gas clouds located around them.
Astronomers have long sought to find supermassive black holes with the smallest mass. They are the missing links necessary to decipher the problem of the origin of SMBH.

In a study published today, a team led by Cardiff said they found one of the smallest SMBHs by the mass of particles ever observed in the center of a nearby galaxy and which would weigh a million times less than the mass of the Sun. This supermassive black hole is located in the galaxy NGC 404 – “The Phantom of the World.” She got this name because of her proximity to a very bright star named Mirah, who casts a shadow on the galaxy.

The results were obtained using a new technique using a complex of radio telescopes located in the Chilean desert of Atacama. He who observes electromagnetic radiation with a millimeter and a submillimeter wavelength is called ALMA. It is used to study light from some of the coldest objects in the universe.

The supermassive black hole in the galaxy in Ghost of the World has mass within the range predicted by the “direct collapse” models, scientists say.

Researchers also noted that this black hole is currently active and swallows gas. This means that some of the most extreme “direct collapse” models that produce only very massive SMBHs may not be true.

This alone is not enough to finally determine the difference between the “original” picture and “direct collapse”. First, we need to analyze all the statistics. But this is a huge step in the right direction.

Dr. Tim Davis from Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy

Black holes are objects that collapsed under the influence of gravity, leaving behind themselves small but incredibly dense areas of space from which nothing can escape, not even light.

A supermassive black hole is the largest type of black hole, which can be hundreds of thousands, if not billions, more than the mass of the sun.

It is believed that almost all large galaxies, such as the Milky Way, contain such a black hole located in its center.

Supermassive black holes have also been discovered in very distant galaxies, as they appeared just a few hundred million years after the big bang. This suggests that at least some of them could become massive in a very short time, which is difficult to explain in accordance with the models of the formation and evolution of galaxies.

All black holes grow when they absorb gas clouds and destroy stars that run the risk of being too close to them, but some have a more active life than others. Therefore, the search for the smallest of them in nearby galaxies can help scientists understand how supermassive black holes appear.

In their research, an international team used completely new methods to get closer to the heart of a small neighboring galaxy called NGC404 than ever before, allowing them to observe the vortex gas clouds that surrounded a supermassive black hole at its center.

The ALMA telescope allowed the team to see gas clouds in the very heart of the galaxy, making it one of the highest-resolution maps ever made.

The ability to observe this galaxy with such a high resolution allowed the team to overcome decades of conflicting results and discover the true nature of supermassive black holes in the center of the galaxy.

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