New study shows black holes collapsing and destroying space-time much faster than previously thought

A recent study led by researchers at Northwestern University has overturned the astrophysical playbook on how supermassive black holes feed, revealing that these giants of the universe consume matter at a surprisingly rapid rate. To violently bend and tear space-time.

The discovery could help solve long-standing mysteries surrounding phenomena such as “changing-looking” quasars, which flare up suddenly and then disappear without explanation, and potentially challenge theories accepted for decades. Let’s give.

For years, the prevailing wisdom has held that black holes slowly “eat” and systematically suck away matter at glacial speeds over thousands of years. However, using high-resolution 3D simulations, researchers at Northwestern University painted a completely different picture.

According to this new study published on September 20 The Astrophysical JournalA supermassive black hole could complete a feeding cycle in just a few months, defying previous estimates.

“Classical accretion disk theory predicts that disks grow slowly,” nick cazgraduate student in astronomy at Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences who led the study, said in a statement, “But some quasars – which result from black holes eating gas from their accretion disks – appear to undergo drastic changes on time scales of months to years.”

“This variation is very drastic. It seems that the interior of the disk – where most of the light comes from – is destroyed and then refilled. The classical accretion disk theory cannot explain this wide variation. But the phenomena we see in our simulations could potentially explain it. The rapid brightening and dimming is consistent with destruction of the inner regions of the disk.

The research team experimented meetingOne of the world’s largest supercomputers, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, runs 3D General Relativistic Magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD) simulations to explore how black holes inexorably intersect themselves.

The supercomputer allowed researchers to integrate gas dynamics, magnetic fields and general relativity, providing a comprehensive view of black hole behavior and offering one of the highest-resolution simulations of accretion disks ever produced.

Through simulations, the researchers discovered that black holes essentially “bend” the surrounding space-time, tearing the accretion disk – a violent whirlpool of gas that separates them – into inner and outer sub-disks. Feeds.

What happens next is an almost cinematic process of eat-refill-repeat. The black hole eats away the inner disk, and then debris from the outer sub-disk expands inward to fill the void, and is swallowed in turn.

“Black holes are extremely general relativistic objects that affect the space-time around them,” Kaz said. “So, as they rotate, they pull the space around them like a giant carousel and force it to rotate as well – a phenomenon called ‘frame-dragging.’ Actually produces a strong effect which becomes increasingly weaker the farther away you go.

These rapid cycles of “eat-refill-eat” potentially explain the baffling behavior of so-called “changing-look” quasars.

A quasar, short for “quasi-stellar radio source”, is an extremely luminous galactic core powered by a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. Emitting energy that outshines entire galaxies, quasars are among the brightest and most energetic objects in the universe, often visible across billions of light-years.

“Changing-look” quasars are a subgroup of quasars that exhibit unusually rapid and drastic changes in their brightness, seemingly switching on and off and causing significant changes in brightness or overall appearance. These changes occur over short periods of time, often ranging from a few months to a few years.

The irregular fluctuations of changing-look quasars have challenged traditional astrophysical theories, making them the subject of intense study as researchers seek to understand the mechanisms driving such dramatic changes.

“The inner region of the accretion disk, where most of the brightness comes from, may disappear completely – within just a few months, in fact,” Kaz explained. “We basically see it going away completely. The system stops brightening. Then, it flashes again, and the process is repeated. Traditional theory has no way of explaining why it disappears in the first place, and it also doesn’t explain how it fills up so quickly.

Some researchers perception Changing-looking quasars may be stars that passed too close to a black hole and collapsed. others have suggested This event was not a quasar but a powerful supernova.

Thanks to recent high-resolution simulations, researchers believe that the rapid disappearance and reappearance of changing-looking quasars may be linked to the rapidly changing inner region of their accretion disks.

According to Kaz, simulations show that the region where the inner and outer sub-disks separate is where the black hole’s “feeding frenzy” actually begins.

“There is a competition between the rotation of the black hole and the friction and pressure inside the disk,” Kaz explained. “The tearing region is where the black hole wins. The inner and outer discs collide with each other. The outer disc removes layers of the inner disc and pushes it inward.”

Space ship

Traditional models often assume that accretion disks are organized and aligned with the black hole’s rotation. However, Kaz says that recent simulations show that this theory is probably wrong.

“For decades, people have made a huge assumption that accretion disks are aligned with the black hole’s rotation,” Kaz said. “But the gas that nourishes these black holes doesn’t necessarily know which direction the black hole is spinning, so why would they automatically align? Changing the alignment changes the picture substantially.

Instead of moving uniformly, simulations show that the inner and outer sub-disks wobble independently at different speeds and angles around a black hole.

The inner disks tend to oscillate much faster than their outer counterparts. This disparity in rotational forces leads to the entire accretion disk being warped or distorted.

As a result, gas particles from different regions of the disk collide with each other, creating an intense burst of light and energy. These high-energy collisions act as a propellant, pushing the material closer to the black hole’s gravitational pull.

The researchers say that instead of flowing proportionally toward the center of the black hole like water swirls in a drain, the black hole’s independent sub-disks spin like gyroscope wheels.

In addition to providing a better understanding of the feeding habits of black holes, researchers hope that the recent simulations will offer fascinating avenues for further investigation of the nature of these mysterious titans, which distort the very fabric of space-time. Have the power of.

In their concluding remarks, the researchers emphasized, “Ultimately it is most important to be able to link our results to observations, which can be accomplished by generating synthetic observations from the simulation results presented here.”

Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement executive, investigative reporter, and co-founder of The Debrief. His writings generally focus on topics related to defense, national security, the intelligence community, and psychology. You can follow Tim on Twitter: @LtTimMcMillan. Tim can be reached by email: [email protected] or via encrypted email: [email protected]

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