When galaxies collide: the growth of supermassive black holes

Research done by TiS volunteer, Vikram Ravi and colleagues. Well done Vikram on some amazing research.

News @ CSIRO

By Vikram Ravi, University of Melbourne and Ryan Shannon, Astronomy and Space Science, CSIRO

Galaxies may look pretty and delicate, with their swirls of stars of many colours – but don’t be fooled. At the heart of every galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, including in our own Milky Way.

Black holes in some nearby galaxies contain ten billion times the mass of our sun in a volume a few times the size of our solar system. That’s a lot of mass in a very small space – not even light travels fast enough to escape a black hole’s gravity.

So how did they get that big? In the journal Science, we tested a commonly-held view that black holes become supermassive by merging with other black holes – and found the answer is not quite that simple.

Searching for gravitational waves

The answer may lie in…

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