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The birth of a black hole: Mesmerizing simulation reveals how the enormous objects sprang from the universe's rapidly-growing first galaxies after the Big Bang

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 23/01/2019 Cheyenne Macdonald For Dailymail.com

The simulation shows young galaxies that generate radiation (white) and metals (green) while heating the surrounding gas. A dark matter halo can also be seen forming three supermassive stars (inset) © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The simulation shows young galaxies that generate radiation (white) and metals (green) while heating the surrounding gas. A dark matter halo can also be seen forming three supermassive stars (inset) Scientists may finally be a step closer to understanding how massive black holes first sprung into existence in the early universe.

While the light from these distant black holes is intense enough to reach telescopes from more than 13 billion light-years away, just how they formed is still a mystery.

Using data from the 70-terabyte Renaissance Simulation suite on the Blue Waters supercomputer, researchers have found that massive black holes can form in fast-growing regions that are devoid of stars.

‘In this study, we have uncovered a totally new mechanism that sparks the formation of massive black holes in particular dark matter halos,’ said John Wise, an associate professor in the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics at Georgia Tech.

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‘Instead of just considering radiation, we need to look at how quickly the halos grow.

‘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.’

According to the new research, the rapid assembly of galaxies can lead to black hole formation despite long-accepted assumptions that such regions limit their ability to grow.

Using data from the 70-terabyte Renaissance Simulation suite on the Blue Waters supercomputer, researchers have found that massive black holes can form in fast-growing regions that are devoid of stars © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Using data from the 70-terabyte Renaissance Simulation suite on the Blue Waters supercomputer, researchers have found that massive black holes can form in fast-growing regions that are devoid of stars

Now, the researchers say black holes may form from the dark matter ‘halos’ that hold galaxies together.

Before this, it was thought that black holes could only form in radiation-rich areas.

‘Previous theories suggested this should only happen when the sites were exposed to high levels of star-formation killing radiation,’ said John Regan, research fellow in the Centre for Astrophysics and Relativity in Dublin City University.

‘As we delved deeper, we saw that these sites were undergoing a period of extremely rapid growth. That was key.

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‘The violent and turbulent nature of the rapid assembly, the violent crashing together of the galaxy’s foundations during the galaxy’s birth prevented normal star formation and led to perfect conditions for black hole formation instead.

‘This research shifts the previous paradigm and opens up a whole new area of research.’

The team used data from the Renaissance Simulation suite, created between 2011 and 2014.

This revealed ten dark matter halos that should have formed stars, but did not.

Instead, they only held dense gas clouds.

The team used the Stampede2 supercomputer to simulate these halos again at a much higher resolution, revealing unprecedented detail on activity that occurred 270 million years after the Big Bang.

‘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 gravitational potential, where it can form stars or a massive black hole.’

The simulations showed black holes grew at a dramatic rate, pulling in gas and clumps of matter as they condensed.

‘Astronomers observe supermassive black holes that have grown to a billion solar masses in 800 million years,’ Wise said.

‘Doing that required an intense convergence of mass in that region. You would expect that in regions where galaxies were forming at very early times.’

According to the team, these black hole-producing halos may be more common than previously thought.

‘An exciting component of this work is the discovery that these types of halos, though rare, may be common enough,’ said Brian O’Shea, a professor at Michigan State University.

‘We predict that this scenario would happen enough to be the origin of the most massive black holes that are observed, both early in the universe and in galaxies at the present day.’

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