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"Why Super-Massive Black Holes Formed Less than 1 Billion Years After Big Bang" --A Mystery

 

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In the early days of the universe, a mere 700 to 800 million years after the Big Bang, most things were small. The first stars and galaxies were just beginning to form and grow in isolated parts of the universe. According to astrophysical theory, black holes found during this era also should be small in proportion with the galaxies in which they reside. However, recent observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have shown that this isn't the case — enormous supermassive black holes existed as early as 700 million years after the Big Bang.

In 2011, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University's Bruce and Astrid McWilliams Center for Cosmology using GigaPan Time Machine computer technology, discovered that the rapid growth of early supermassive black holes was caused by thin streams of cold gas flowing uncontrolled into the center of the first black holes, causing them to grow faster than anything else in the universe.

"The Sloan Digital Sky Survey found supermassive black holes at less than 1 billion years. They were the same size as today's most massive black holes, which are 13.6 billion years old," said Tiziana Di Matteo, associate professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon. "It was a puzzle. Why do some black holes form so early when it takes the whole age of the universe for others to reach the same mass?"

Supermassive black holes are the largest black holes, with masses billions of times larger than that of the sun. Typical black holes have masses only up to 30 times larger than the sun's. Astrophysicists have determined that supermassive black holes can form when two galaxies collide and their two black holes merge into one. These galaxy collisions happened in the later years of the universe, but not in the early days. In the first few millions of years after the Big Bang, galaxies were too few and too far apart to merge.

"If you write the equations for how galaxies and black holes form, it doesn't seem possible that these huge masses could form that early," said Rupert Croft, an associate professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon. "But we look to the sky and there they are."

To find out exactly how these supermassive black holes came to be, Di Matteo, Croft and Carnegie Mellon post-doctoral researcher Nishikanta Khandai created the largest cosmological simulation to date. Called MassiveBlack, the simulation focused on recreating the first billion years after the Big Bang.

"This simulation is truly gigantic. It's the largest in terms of the level of physics and the actual volume. We did that because we were interested in looking at rare things in the universe, like the first black holes. Because they are so rare, you need to search over a large volume of space," Di Matteo said.
They began by running the simulation under conditions set under the standard model of cosmology — the accepted theories and laws of modern day physics governing the formation and growth of the universe.

"We didn't put anything crazy in. There's no magic physics, no extra stuff. It's the same physics that forms galaxies in simulations of the later universe," Croft said. "But magically, these early quasars, just as had been observed, appear. We didn't know they were going to show up. It was amazing to measure their masses and go 'Wow! These are the exact right size and show up exactly at the right point in time.' It's a success story for the modern theory of cosmology."

Their simulation data was incorporated into a new technology developed by Carnegie Mellon computer scientists called GigaPan Time Machine. The technology allowed the researchers to view their simulation as if it was a video with extremely high resolution. This enabled them to easily pan across the simulated universe as it formed and move back and forth through time as necessary. They could then zoom in on events that looked interesting, viewing them in greater detail than could be seen using a telescope.

As they zoomed in to the creation of the first supermassive black holes, they saw something unexpected. Normally, when cold gas flows toward a black hole it collides with other gas in the surrounding galaxy. This causes the cold gas to heat up and then cool back down before it enters the black hole. This process, called shock heating, would stop black holes in the early universe from growing fast enough to reach the masses we see. 

Instead, Di Matteo and Croft saw in their simulation thin streams of cold dense gas flowing along the filaments that give structure to the universe and straight into the center of the black holes at breakneck speed, making for cold, fast food for the black holes. This uncontrolled consumption caused the black holes to grow exponentially faster than the galaxies in which they reside.

Because a galaxy forms when a black hole forms, the results could also shed light on how the first galaxies formed, giving more clues to how the universe came to be. Di Matteo and Croft hope to push the limits of their simulation a bit more, creating even bigger simulations that cover more space and time.

Image at the top of page shows he supermassive black hole at the center of the spiral galaxy NGC 4151 has created a structure that astronomers call the "Eye of Sauron," after the evil wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" novels. 

The Daily Galaxy via Carnegie Mellon University 

Image credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/J.Wang et al.; Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma/Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope; NSF/NRAO/VLA

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Comments

What a surprise. It'd be a bigger surprise to the BB acolytes if the universe was much, much older, perhaps hundreds of billions of years (or even trillions), which would give all these super-massive black holes time to form.

After the big bang I see monster suns forming out of the nearness of material and these then exploding forming huge nebulas within which more large suns formed and in turn explode into more nebulas, all the while everything is spreading apart further and further. Eventually, the large suns formed become fewer but still there to explode and more suns are created.
Everytime the suns explode, they leave behind a black hole, the early monsters leaving monster black holes and so on.
I believe that the initial big bang also leaves a really huge black hole.
Using the popular theory of suns exploding and leaving a black hole residue, it only stands to reason that the initial Big Bang leaves a Black Hole also.
It also seems logical to believe that the universe will be found to be a lot older than assumed to date.
That's how I see it.

Are you, 'Dr Cook', one of the conveners of this blog? I assume so.

It may be expedient to refer to the hypothetical ages of separately formed [and recycled] regions within the universe as a whole. The simple image of an array of bubbles forming, multiplying, sometimes merging or bursting in a spray of froth comes to mind.

Are super-massive black holes potentially eternally structures pre-dating the so-called big bang [or a multiplicity of big bang singularities]?

I think this is all open to speculation.

What the real answer should say here is, the big bang theory is incorrect and primitive, black holes this size could not have formed in such a short time period, especially to create perfectly formed galaxies as seen today. It is only a matter of time before they discover galaxies that pre date the big bang. And then people may actually realise and think about how much we need a new model to explain the "start" of the universe, if there is such a thing that is.

My uneducated, layman's theory is that the original anisotropy of the universe coalesced into very heavy mass centers very early on. At that point, matter all around these mass centers would just have fallen on them, adding to their mass, eventually pushing them below their Schwarzschild radius.

Perhaps these were the very first big structures to form, basically providing the "seeds" around which galaxies would later grow.

I doubt there's need of Sun to colapse in order to produce a black hole.

For me it is more reasonable to believe that during the big bang the mater doesnt spread simultaneously in all directions, which a bit later leaded to creating of piles of mater with temperature and energy producing gravitation sufficient to merge shortly into a black hole.

I doubt there's need of Sun to colapse in order to produce a black hole.
** note - i mean this wasnt the case during the early phase of our universe, shortly after big bang.

I agree with Dr Cook. A few hundred million years would be too short a timespan for those monstrous black holes to form. The Universe has to be older - much much much older that we think that it is.

since no one really know what's inside a black hole how about a wild theory: the black holes are not made from collapsed matter but from antimatter, perhaps after big bang there was a symmetry after-all between matter and antimatter but antimatter somehow grouped faster than matter and formed black holes which helped in the formation of the new galaxy.

When starts or gas collapse into the black hole they annihilate same amount of mater and antimatter, and galaxy stay in balance. The emitted light cannot escape the black hole gravity and we cannot see it except perpendicular on the galaxy where the sum of gravity forces are different and somehow the jets can escape when the black hole is feeding ... just that the black hole through feeding don't get fatter but slimmer.

It seems like a stupid idea, but as for now nobody know for sure what is inside a black hole, so why not after all.

P.S. This is coming from a non-physicist who love science, so don't bash me too hard LOL

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