Big and small black holes eat the same way

No matter the size of a black hole, they all seem to eat the same, according to a new study.

Why it matters: Black holes are some of the most extreme objects found in our universe. By studying the way they grow, scientists should be able to collaborate more on how they work.

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What they found: The study in the Astrophysics Journal suggests that all black holes go through a similar cycle during feeding, whether they are about 10 times the mass of our Sun or a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy.

  • Scientists know that when relatively small black holes receive a large aid of gas or dust, they move into a phase where the object feeds from a disk surrounding the black hole – called an accretion disk.

  • As the disk collapses, the area around the black hole can glow bright in X-rays, and this eventually gives way to the object calming down again. This all happens for a few weeks to months.

  • Researchers thought this process would take too long for them to look at the whole thing playing with a supermassive black hole, but the new study found that eating can speed up if the black hole gets a big meal at a time, like when it crashes a star. .

How they did it: The researchers behind the new study looked at how a supermassive black hole 860 million light-years away swallowed a star in 2018, giving them a first-hand view of how these huge black holes eat.

The bottom: “When you throw a ball of gas at them, they all seem to do more or less the same thing,” study author Dheeraj Pasham, of MIT, said in a statement. “They are the same animal in terms of their growth.”

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