Video: Supermassive Black Holes Devour 'Cold Meals': Scientists
A supermassive black hole eating up cold gas has been identified for the first time by Yale and MIT astronomers, according to new research published in the journal Nature.
"This diffuse, hot gas is available to the black hole at a low level all the time, and you can have a steady trickle of it going in," Michael McDonald, assistant professor of physics in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, told MIT News.
The located supermassive black hole at the centre of the Abell 2497 Brightest Cluster Galaxy seems to have a partial preference for cold clouds of molecular hydrogen laced with of carbon monoxide and other "impurities".
"Every now and then, you can have a rainstorm with all these droplets of cold gas, and for a short amount of time, the black hole's eating very quickly," McDonald said. "So the idea that there are these two dinner modes for black holes is a pretty nice result."
The clouds are zipping at speeds of 355 kilometers per second, which works to about 800,000 miles per hour, and only 150 light years away from its edge.
While earlier, experts proposed that a cold gas "meal" was possible in principle, the recent findings prove it.
"It's simply a beautiful, clean demonstration of cold gas moving inward toward the heart of a galaxy," Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at Yale University in Connecticut and lead author on the study, told Space.com.