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The birth story of the universe's first supermassive black holes is getting a rethink.
Researchers have generally thought that the seeds of these pioneering behemoths sprouted in areas awash in ultraviolet radiation streaming from neighbor galaxies. This radiation inhibited the formation of normal stars, freeing up material for eventual incorporation into black holes, the idea goes.
Study - Mechanism - Formation - Holes - Dark-matter
"In this study, we have uncovered a totally new mechanism that sparks the formation of massive black holes in particular dark-matter halos," study lead author John Wise, an associate professor in the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a statement.
"Instead of just considering radiation, we need to look at how quickly the halos grow," Wise added. "We don’t need that much physics to understand it — just how the dark matter is distributed and how gravity will affect that. Forming a massive black hole requires being in a rare region with an intense convergence of matter."
Zoom - Light‐years - Matter - Halo - Disk
A zoom in of the inner 30 light‐years of the dark matter halo. The rotating gaseous disk breaks apart into three clumps that collapse under their own gravity to form supermassive stars.
Wise and his colleagues came to this conclusion after analyzing supercomputer simulations of the early universe's evolution. These simulations revealed 10 dark matter halos that harbored only gas clouds, despite being so massive that they should have become stellar nurseries.
Researchers - Simulations - Halos - Look - Years
The researchers then ran additional simulations on two of these halos, each of which was about 2,400 light-years wide, to get a more detailed look at what may have been going on just 270 million years after the universe's birth.
"It was only in these overly dense regions of the universe that we saw these black holes forming," Wise said. "The dark matter creates most of the gravity, and then the gas falls into that...
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