Once considered rare and exotic objects, black holes are now known to exist throughout the Universe, with the largest and most massive found at the centres of the largest galaxies. These "ultra-massive" black holes have been shown to have masses upwards of one billion times that of our own Sun.
Now, Priyamvada Natarajan, an associate professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, has shown that even the biggest of these gravitational monsters can't keep growing forever. Instead, they appear to curb their own growth - once they accumulate about 10 billion times the mass of the Sun.
These ultra-massive black holes, found at the centres of giant elliptical galaxies in huge galaxy clusters, are the biggest in the known Universe. Even the large black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy is thousands of times less massive than these behemoths. But these gigantic black holes, which accumulate mass by sucking in matter from neighbouring gas, dust and stars, seem unable to grow beyond this limit regardless of where - and when - they appear in the Universe. "It's not just happening today," said Natarajan. "They shut off at every epoch in the Universe."
The study, which appears in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) on 15 October, represents the first time an upper mass limit has been derived for black holes. Natarajan used existing optical and X-ray data of these ultra-massive black holes to show that, in order for those various observations to be consistent, the black holes must essentially shut off at some point in their evolution.
One possible explanation put forth by Natarajan is that the black holes eventually reach the point when they radiate so much energy as they consume their surroundings that they end up interfering with the very gas supply that feeds them, which may interrupt nearby star formation. The new findings have implications for the future study of galaxy formation, since many of the largest galaxies in the Universe appear to co-evolve along with the black holes at their centres.
"Evidence has been mounting for the key role that black holes play in the process of galaxy formation," said Natarajan. "But it now appears that they are likely the prima donnas of this space opera."
The authors of the paper are Priyamvada Natarajan (Yale University and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study) and Ezequiel Treister (European Southern Observatory, Chile and University of Hawaii).
Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun
18.04.2019 | University of Warwick
In vivo super-resolution photoacoustic computed tomography by localization of single dyed droplets
18.04.2019 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...
Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.
Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...
Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna
A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences
18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences