Gases Around Black Holes Act Like Fountains, Study Finds

Posted: Dec 5 2018, 9:48am CST | by , Updated: Dec 5 2018, 9:53am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Gases around Black Holes Act Like Fountains, Study Finds
ALMA image of the gas around the supermassive black hole in the center of the Circinus Galaxy. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Using ALMA observations, researchers have found that the rings of gas around supermassive black holes involve a dynamic circulation pattern.

Supermassive black holes, millions or billions of times the mass of our Sun, are found at the centers of almost every galaxy. Many of these black holes are surrounded by thick rings of gas and dust. Seen from telescopes, these structures resemble a donut.

Previous research suggests that donut-like structures are formed from the material lying near the center of a galaxy. Rather than falling directly into the black hole, the material builds up around the active black hole creating a donut structure.

New observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), however, reveal that the rings of gas and dust surrounding black holes are not simple donut shapes. Instead, they are caused by the interaction between infalling gas expelled from the center and the combination creates a dynamic circulation pattern, similar to a water fountain in a city park.

Researchers have long known about the rotating donuts-shape structures around black holes, but the mechanism of how they occur has not been clear to them until now.

Aiming to solve this problem, a team of astronomers led by a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) used ALMA to observe the supermassive black hole in the center of Circinus Galaxy. Circinus Galaxy is located 14 million light-years from the Earth and falls in the category of seyfert galaxy, a galaxy characterized by a bright compact core. Researchers also ran computer simulation to demonstrate the response of gas falling towards a black hole.

The results showed that black hole donuts are not actually rigid structures but instead a complex collection of highly dynamic gaseous. As cold molecular gas falling towards the black hole forms a disk, it becomes superheated and breaks down into the component atoms and ions. Most of this gas is absorbed by the black hole but some also ejected above and below the disk, creating a turbulent three dimensional donut-like structure. The structure works similar to a water fountain.

This is the first time the gas circulation has been imagined by computer simulation. Understanding how the gases in and around supermassive black holes interact is a puzzle in the formation of galactic behemoths.

"By investigating the motion and distribution of both the cold molecular gas and warm atomic gas with ALMA, we demonstrated the origin of the so-called 'donut' structure around active black holes," said reseacher Takuma Izumi from NAOJ. "Based on this discovery, we need to rewrite the astronomy textbooks."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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