Supermassive black holes live by a “reuse, recycle” mantra

Supermassive black holes are known to follow a fundamental principle of the universe – the “reuse, recycle” mantra. They have the remarkable ability to cleverly reuse matter and energy to maintain their enormous size and enormous gravitational pull.

Japanese researchers have found in their research that supermassive black holes pull galactic gas toward their center and expel most of it, which they describe as “monumental”.These giant gravity wells scattered across the universe have been found to use only small amounts of gas drawn toward their centers.

Now, for the first time, a team led by Assistant Professor Takuma Izumi of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has measured the nature and behavior of the gas around these black hole events, known as active galactic nuclei on scales smaller than a light-year. Izumi’s team compares the process to a water fountain, where water is pumped up and stored in a basin below for reuse. Izumi hopes to refine the study’s data by using ALMA to study more massive black holes.

There are monumental achievements, Izumi says, But to comprehensively understand the evolution of supermassive black holes throughout cosmic history, we need to examine different types of supermassive black holes that are located far away from us.

The discovery was made in a detailed study of the constellation Circinus about 13 million light-years away, with the Atacama Large Millimeter, submillimeter Array ALMA telescope.

Circinus has two black holes at its center – supermassive black holes, which are actively ‘feeding’ gas from the surrounding galaxy.

Under the intense gravitational pull of the black hole, these gases reach incredible speeds, causing particles to collide, heating up and emitting light so intense that it can be detected by telescopes millions of light years away.

This is a remarkable achievement because such measurements are typically at very low apparent resolution, covering 100–100,000 light years.

The central region of the Circinus galaxy is seen with ALMA. The distribution of carbon monoxide CO indicates the presence of medium-density molecular gas, atomic carbon CO indicates the presence of atomic gas, hydrogen cyanide HCN indicates the presence of high-density molecular gas, and the hydrogen recombination line H36α ionized Gas shown in red, blue, green and pink indicates the presence of

Their probe captured the accumulation of gas toward the center of the black hole. The accretion rate supplying gas to the black hole is about 30 times the rate required to grow the object. These calculations along with their observations show that the surplus escapes back as molecular or nuclear gas, where it attaches to the accretion disk and the process begins again.


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