Using data of three powerful telescopes, researchers find important clues to the birth of earliest generation of supermassive black holes.
The birth of supermassive black holes has been a hot research topic for scientists in recent years. But despite extensive research and advanced technology, they were unable to identify those important clues that could reveal the process of giant black holes' formation.
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Now, Italian astrophysicists have made significant inroads towards understanding how black holes quickly grow into supermassive black holes. They believe the answer may lie in two objects in early universe that possibly served as ‘seeds’ of supermassive black holes. According to researchers these two objects are the strongest candidates for cosmic seeds so far.
“Our discovery, if confirmed, explains how these monster black holes were born,” said lead researcher Fabio Pacucci from Italy. “We found evidence that supermassive black hole seeds can form directly from the collapse of a giant gas cloud, skipping any intermediate steps.”
Scientists are always perplexed by the earliest generation of supermassive black holes that were formed nearly a billion years after the Big Bang and contained billions of times the mass of the Sun.
It is widely thought that suppermassive black holes are formed when small black holes merged and exhale the surrounding gas. If this is true, then the process should have taken much longer time than those early black holes that were transformed into giant black holes relatively quickly from astronomical perspective.
“There is a lot of controversy over which path these black holes take," said co-author Andrea Ferrara. "Our work suggests we are narrowing in on an answer, where the black holes start big and grow at the normal rate, rather than starting small and growing at a very fast rate.”
To solve the mystery, researchers have combined the data of three powerful telescopes: Hubble, Chandra and Spilzer and picked the candidates that fit the profile of black hole seeds.
“Black hole seeds are extremely hard to find and confirming their detection is very difficult,” said co-author Andrea Grazian. “However, we think our research has uncovered the two best candidates to date.”
After a thorough examination of the candidate objects, researchers concluded that some of the early supermassive black holes are formed directly when a gas of cloud collapsed, bypassing the intermediate phases such as destruction of stars and gradual growing by accumulation of additional matter.
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The results, however, are not definitive by any stretch of imagination and further observations are needed to confirm the finding. It will also be necessary to find more candidates of black hole seeds if scientists want to fully understand the formation of supermassive black holes.