A global group of astronomers discovered an entirely new way to analyze the behavior of active black holes.
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Researchers from Cardiff University discovered a sample of active black holes at the cores of 136 galaxies that emit similar levels of microwave and X-Ray light, regardless of their consumption of surrounding galactic matter, such as gaseous clouds of dust and plasma.
This phenomenon, unexpected based on current knowledge of how black holes consume matter, was observed by a team led by scientists at Cardiff University.
Traditionally perceived as inherently distinct based on their consumption patterns, active black holes are distinguished by the configuration of their cores and their methods of attracting galactic matter.
The group considered that the black holes may have more similarities than assumed before.
The research published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters proposes information about the evolution of galaxies.
The microwave and X-Ray glow we detect from the regions around these black holes seems to directly relate to their mass and to originate from streams of plasma disorderly falling into them. This is the case in both systems that have huge appetites that are eating nearly an entire star like our Sun per year, and those with lesser appetites which are eating the same amount of material over 10 million years.
Dr. Ilaria Ruffa, Study Lead Author and Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University
Dr. Ilaria Ruffa adds, “This was very surprising because we had previously thought that such streams should occur only in systems eating at low rates, whereas in those with huge appetites, the black hole should be fed through a more ordered and constant flow of matter (usually called `the accretion disc’).”
The group made the finding while examining the link between the cold gas around active black holes and analyzing the process of getting power in the WISDOM sample of 35 nearby galaxies by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) of telescopes in Chile.
Dr. Ruffa adds, “Our study suggests that the microwave light we detect may actually come from these streams of plasma in all types of active black holes, changing our view on how these systems consume matter and grow to be the cosmic monsters we see today.”
The correlations identified by the team offer a fresh approach to estimating the masses of black holes. Astronomers consider this crucial in comprehending how black holes influence the evolution of galaxies throughout the Universe.
Galaxies care very much about the black holes that exist within their cores. And they probably shouldn’t because, while we always think of black holes as these super massive beasts consuming everything around them, they are really very small and lightweight in the context of an entire galaxy. And yet they have a mysterious non-gravitational influence over material tens of thousands of light years away from them. This is something we have puzzled over as astronomers for many years.
Dr. Timothy Davis, Study Co-Author and Reader, School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University
Davis adds, “Measuring black hole masses, and how these compare to the properties of their host galaxies is the best way to begin to understand why this mystery endures. Our new method opens a new window onto this problem, and the next generation of instruments will allow us to explore this in depth over cosmic time.”
The group containing scientists from the Cardiff Hub for Astrophysics Research and Technology (CHART) and international partners from across Europe, Canada, and Japan decided to further analyze their research as part of a new “multi-Wavelength Observations of Nuclear Dark-object Emission Regions” (WONDER) project headed by Dr Ruffa.
Ruffa, I., et al. (2023). A fundamental plane of black hole accretion at millimeter wavelengths. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters.