Supermassive black holes may be able to change their environment, study reports

Researchers have evidence that shows supermassive black holes can shape and alter the space around them.
By Joseph Scalise | Dec 26, 2017
For the first time in history, astronomers have witnessed a supermassive black hole actively shaping its environment, a new paper published in The Astrophysical Journal reports.

Scientist have long believed that supermassive black holes are able to shape the space around them. However, nobody has managed to witness the process until now.

In the study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego analyzed a quasar -- a super-bright stellar object powered by a supermassive black hole -- known as 3C 298 that sits so far from Earth astronomers can only see how it would have looked 9.3 billion years ago.

"We study supermassive black holes in the very early universe when they are actively growing by accreting massive amounts of gaseous material," saidstudy co-author Shelley Wright, an astrophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, according to Newsweek. "While black holes themselves do not emit light, the gaseous material they chew on is heated to extreme temperatures, making them the most luminous objects in the universe."

The team found that the galaxy around 3C 298 has roughly 100 times less matter than the team expected to find around a supermassive black hole as big as 3C 298's. Since the number of stars typically influences galaxy mass, the researchers postulated that both the formation and its quasar reduced star formation over time. If that is true, it would mean that certain holes can affect the bodies and space in their galaxy.

There are roughly 2,000 quasars known to science. As a result, if the same phenomenon is occurring in every galaxy with a quasar, it could greatly impact or alter the universe on a much wider scale. The team in the study plans to further analyze 3C 298 to get a better understanding of the process and see how it led to universe we know today.

"Understanding why and how galaxies are affected by their supermassive black holes is an outstanding puzzle in their formation," added Wright, in astatement. "This is remarkable that the supermassive black hole is able to impact stars forming at such large distances."

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