The formation process involved two stages, said Mitchell Begelman, a professor and the chair of CU-Boulder's astrophysical and planetary sciences department. The predecessors to black hole formation, objects called supermassive stars, probably started forming within the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago.
A supermassive star eventually would have grown to a huge size -- as much as tens of millions of times the mass of our sun -- and would have been short-lived, with its core collapsing in just in few million years, he said.
In the new study to be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in London, Begelman calculated how supermassive stars might have formed, as well as the masses of their cores. These calculations allowed him to estimate their subsequent size and evolution, including how they ultimately left behind "seed" black holes.
Begelman said the hydrogen-burning supermassive stars would had to have been stabilized by their own rotation or some other form of energy like magnetic fields or turbulence in order to facilitate the speedy growth of black holes at their centers. "What's new here is we think we have found a new mechanism to form these giant supermassive stars, which gives us a new way of understanding how big black holes may have formed relatively fast," said Begelman.
The main requirement for the formation of supermassive stars is the accumulation of matter at a rate of about one solar mass per year, said Begelman. Because of the tremendous amount of matter consumed by supermassive stars, subsequent seed black holes that formed in their centers may have started out much bigger than ordinary black holes -- which are the mass of only a few Earth suns -- and subsequently grew much faster.
After the seed black holes formed, the process entered its second stage, which Begelman has dubbed the "quasistar" stage. In this phase, black holes grew rapidly by swallowing matter from the bloated envelope of gas surrounding them, which eventually inflated to a size as large as Earth's solar system and cooled at the same time, he said.
Once quasistars cooled past a certain point, radiation began escaping at such a high rate that it caused the gas envelope to disperse and left behind black holes up to 10,000 times or more the mass of Earth's sun, Begelman said. With such a big head start over ordinary black holes, they could have grown into supermassive black holes millions or billions of times the mass of the sun either by gobbling up gas from surrounding galaxies or merging with other black holes in extremely violent galactic collisions.
The quasistar phase was analyzed in a 2008 paper published by Begelman in collaboration with CU Professor Phil Armitage and Research Associate Elena Rossi.
"Until recently, the thinking by many has been that supermassive black holes got their start from the merging of numerous, small black holes in the universe," he said. "This new model of black hole development indicates a possible alternate route to their formation."
Black holes are extremely dense celestial objects believed to be formed by the collapse of stars and which have such a strong gravitational field that nothing, not even light, can escape. While black holes are not directly detectable by astronomers, the movement of stellar matter swirling around them and powerful jets of gas blasting outward provides evidence for their existence. Ordinary black holes are thought to be remnants of stars slightly larger than our sun that used up their fuel and died, he said.
The supermassive black holes created early in the history of the universe may have gone on to produce the phenomenon of quasars -- the very bright, energetic centers of distant galaxies that can be a trillion times brighter than our sun. There also is evidence that a supermassive black hole inhabits the center of every massive galaxy today, including our own Milky Way, said Begelman.
"Big black holes formed via these supermassive stars could have had a huge impact on the evolution of the universe, including galaxy formation," he said. Begelman is collaborating with University of Michigan astrophysicist Marta Volonteri, comparing the possible formation of supermassive black holes from supermassive stars and quasistars versus their creation by the merging of ordinary black holes left behind by the collapse of the universe's earliest stars.
Scientists may be able to use NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, slated for launch in 2013, to look back in time and hunt for the cocoon-like supermassive stars near the edges of the early universe, which would shine brightly in the near infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, said Begelman.
Begelman has authored several books, including "Gravity's Fatal Attraction" with Martin Rees, a member of the British House of Lords and president of the Royal Society of London and who is the British Astronomer Royal, in 1996. The second edition of the book is due out early next year. Begelman also authored "Turn Right at Orion: Travels Through the Cosmos" in 2000.
Mitchell Begelman | EurekAlert!
APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences