Astronomers discover how to power a supermassive black hole

Image credit: Astry / ASZ

Astronomers discover how to power a supermassive black hole
Scientists seek to understand how black holes wake up and, after a process of accretion of the material that is around them, they become for a time the most powerful objects in the universe.

A Spanish research team has discovered the existence of long and narrow dust filaments that surround and feed the black holes that are in the center of the galaxies.

These filaments could be the natural cause of the darkening of the center of many galaxies when their black holes are active, reported the Institute of Astrophysics of the Spanish archipelago of the Canaries (IAC) to which the research team belongs, whose study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

Thanks to images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope (VLT), from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), in Chile, scientists have been able to obtain a direct visualization of the nuclear power process of a black hole in the galaxy NGC 1566 by these filaments.

Dust filaments towards the center of the galaxy
The combined telescopes show a snapshot of the dust filaments breaking apart to head straight for the center of the galaxy, where they circle and spiral around the black hole, until they are swallowed up by it.

“This network of telescopes provides us with a completely new perspective of a supermassive black hole, thanks to the images in high angular resolution and the panoramic visualization of its surroundings, since they allow us to follow the fading of the dust filaments precipitating inside it” , explained Almudena Prieto, IAC researcher who has led the work.

The study is the result of the long-term project PARSEC, of the IAC, which seeks to understand how supermassive black holes awaken from a long hibernation life, and, after a process of accretion of the material that is around them, they are converted by a short period of time on the most powerful objects in the universe.

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