Supermassive Black Holes can Devour One Star in a Year

Supermassive Black Holes can Devour One Star in a Year

Are Black Holes the most powerful thing in the universe?

Supermassive black holes are considered the central point of almost every galaxy out there. They are extremely dangerous as they have the potential to wipe out the very galaxy it resides in. The reason for this frightening threat is, the blazing energy these holes have, the ability to doom embryonic stars and the slow death of remaining stars gradually. The theory of a black hole clearly states that it can absorb anything and everything in it.

When anything comes in its scope, it forms a disk by swirling around. This motion produces an immense amount of heat before matter falls into the black hole. The sizes of these black holes can vary from one to another but there are black holes which have the mass equal to billions of suns. Scientists used the services of Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory to see the impacts of these monsters. X-ray Observatory helps to verify the galaxies that emit very high X-rays. This is the most reliable indicator of a galaxy which has a black hole.

There are several theories about the huge sizes of these black holes. A popular one with the latest research to back it is that they become huge by eating stars of their own galaxies. Benjamin Bromley of University of Utah believes in it and said in one of his statements that, “I believe this has got to be the dominant method for growing supermassive black holes.” According to another theory, they can also merge with each other while there are people who believe that these holes were born this way.

Nobody is sure what lies inside a black hole (Credit: Henning Dalhoff/SPL
Nobody is sure what lies inside a black hole (Credit: Henning Dalhoff/SPL

Astronomers have managed to find some galaxies where no new stars are being born at all. This information has been in the knowledge of scientists for years now. There are rough estimates that these humungous black holes could be behind all this but there has been no logical explanation about this process till now. Astrophysicist Asa Bluck decided to investigate this issue with his team. They chose 100 galaxies with a supermassive black hole in them. For 5 years, they studied these galaxies under optical, x-ray and infra-red wavelengths.

The researchers paid extra emphasis to the rate of growth of the black holes from the amounts of radiation they were emitting. The masses of black holes were also compared with the total masses of the galaxies to check how much they have consumed. Bluck clarified in a meeting that they have an adverse impact on the galaxies:

“Black holes from inside their host galaxies and grow in proportion to them, forming an accretion disc which will eventually destroy the host. In this sense, they can be described as viral in nature.”

There is a black hole in about one-third of all the large galaxies. The energy generated by them is enough to wipe out every galaxy 25 times over. The gas and dust that is responsible for the formation of new stars. They are taken away from the galaxies by the heavy emission of x-rays. This is a big step towards the destruction of a galaxy as there will be no stars to replace the fading ones. In this regard, Bluck’s statement holds quite a lot of significance.

“Without new stars to replace them, old stars will age, ridden and eventually fade out of existence. The galaxies will grow dark and die as well.”

The initial observation that leads to all this research is that the nuclear star cluster of a supermassive black hole is expected to be symmetrical. Several galaxies including the neighboring one ‘Andromeda’ has an asymmetrical star cluster which gives it a shape of a disc. This shows the merger of two gas-rich galaxies. This disc depicts the revolution of stars before being shredded by the black hole.

The statements issued by Bluck about Milky Way are heartening but just for now. He says, “This is actually quite a big galaxy, but has an abnormally diminutive central black hole. Currently, it is in a quiescent stage — not outputting much energy — but this could change in the future.” He issued a statement about the merger of our galaxy and Andromeda that:

We expect our own galaxy and Andromeda to merge in about 4 billion years or so.

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