Space & Astronomy
Supermassive black hole found feeding on gas
By T.K. Randall
June 9, 2016 · 4 comments
The black hole is situated over one billion light years away. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 ESO/M. Kornmesser
Astronomers have caught their first-ever glimpse of a supermassive black hole feeding on cold gas clouds.
Scientists from Cardiff University used the ALMA telescope in the Atacama desert to observe three clouds streaming towards the black hole at speeds of up to 800,000mph.
The find offers evidence to suggest that, in addition to slowly absorbing hot gas clouds, supermassive black holes also feed on nearby fast-moving cold gas clouds as well.
"At that very moment, nature gave us a clear view of this complicated process, allowing us to understand supermassive black holes in a way that has never been possible before," said Dr Timothy Davis who described the spectacle as 'magical'.
"It's possible that the black hole has an ever bigger appetite and is devouring even more of these cold clouds of gas surrounding it."
Situated around one billion light years away, the scene was discovered entirely by accident during efforts to determine the birth rate of stars in the galaxy.
"We could probably look at 100 galaxies like this and not see what we saw just by chance," said study co-author Professor Michael Macdonald.
Source: BBC News
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