New Research Indicates Supermassive Black Holes Grow Faster Than Previously Thought

Posted on January 16, 2013

Black Hole Swallowing Star Animation


Astronomers from Swinburne University of Technology have discovered that supermassive black holes are growing much faster than previously thought. Scientists previously thought supermassive black holes, located at the center of galaxies, increased their mass in step with the growth of their host galaxy. The new research, published in The Astrophysical Journal, reveals that this approach needs to be changed.

Professor Alister Graham from Swinburne's Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, said in a release, "Black holes have been growing much faster than we thought. We now know that each ten-fold increase of a galaxy's stellar mass is associated with a much larger 100-fold increase in its black hole mass. This has widespread implications for our understanding of galaxy and black hole coevolution."

The researchers also found the opposite behavior exists in the tightly packed clusters of stars that are observed at the centers of smaller galaxies and in disk galaxies like our Milky Way.

Swinburne researcher Dr Nicholas Scott says, "The smaller the galaxy, the greater the fraction of stars in these dense, compact clusters. In the lower mass galaxies the star clusters, which can contain up to millions of stars, really dominate over the black hole."

Swinburne Astronomers created this animation to show the fate of some of the stars which venture too close to the central supermassive black hole. Take a look:



Image: Gabriel Perez Diaz