A team of astrophysics led by Fabio Pacucci, from the Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS) in Pisa, Italy might have discovered a method to identify the oldest black holes in the universe. The researchers used information by 3 of the most important NASA’s observatories each of which observed and collected different kinds of data for a long time.
Pacucci’s team thinks that by combining this information, they can find black holes that were born when the universe was only 1 billion years old or younger. The details are specified in a study that was first published on-line on March 28. The paper will be in the upcoming issue of the monthly print of the Royal Astronomical Society, and it comes with a plot twist. The article says that these black holes formed from “direct collapse” which is a totally new theory.
“Our discovery, if confirmed, explains how these monster black holes were born,” said Fabio Pacucci “We found evidence that supermassive black hole seeds can form directly from the collapse of a giant gas cloud, skipping any intermediate steps.”
The colleagues proposed the detection of the oldest black holes in the galaxy by evaluating different aspects of their radiation. Because of that, the team used data provided by 3 very important observatories; The Hubble Space Telescope, which is still rocking it, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Detecting black holes takes a lot of skill and patience to evaluate the data, usually in the form of long-exposure images. Moreover, what Pacucci and his team wanted to do is much more difficult than finding a black hole, they wanted to find the first ones in the galaxy and for this, they used straightforward criteria. They used the Hubble and the Spitzer data to determine how far the black holes were, and the colors they emitted. Then, they used Chandra X-rays data because according to their method, a black hole that was born in the very first stages of the universe has to radiate high concentrations of x-rays, which would be seen as a very red color.
After a long time and hard effort, the team came up with 2 possible candidates. However, they did not say their names.
The creation of a black hole is something that scientists have wanted to discover for a long time. There are many explanations, but most scientists are inclined to one in particular. According to this theory, when a super massive star gets into its final cycle in life, it collapses into itself creating an incredibly dense body. These “balls” literally have masses equivalent to billions of suns in a very “limited” space. They also have a gravity pull so strong, not even light can escape from it, but if Pacucci’s team actually found black holes that were born in the universe’s first billion years of existence, this theory becomes invalid.
The formation of a normal star takes a lot of time, and for a super massive one, that time is much longer. For the imploding star theory to apply, the celestial body has to live and consume itself until it collapses. In other words, scientists are going nuts trying to explain how a black hole can be formed in such a short period of time (less than a billion years).
According to the researching team, the first black holes could have taken the mass directly from the gas cloud skipping the formation and later collapse of a massive star, but they say there are more differences. When a star collapses into itself and causes a supernova, the resulting “void” is tiny but hungry. It starts absorbing everything it can and grows very fast. However, Pacucci’s team say that maybe, the first ones were big from the beginning and then, grew at a normal pace.
“There is a lot of controversy over which path these black holes take,” said Andrea Ferrara, also of SNS. “Our work suggests we are narrowing in on an answer, where the black holes start big and grow at the normal rate, rather than starting small and growing at a very fast rate.”
Most scientists believe there is a big black hole in the middle of every galaxy which means they molded the universe we know today. If the findings are correct, a lot of theses that wants to explain how the universe was created and formed would have to be adjusted. Accordingly, the researchers from SNS say more studies with better equipment are necessary to prove their method, and they don’t have to wait for long. There are 2 very expected projects intended for space observation coming in soon; NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and The European Extremely Large Telescope. In addition, the researching team and other scientists are already working on the framework needed to find the oldest black holes in the universe.
“As scientists, we cannot say at this point that our model is ‘the one,’” said Pacucci. “What we really believe is that our model is able to reproduce the observations without requiring unreasonable assumptions.”
Source: Cornell University Library