Black holes destroy thousands of stars as they grow

(ORDO NEWS) — In some densely populated corners of the universe, black holes can tear apart thousands of stars and feed on their remnants, thus gaining more and more weight. This discovery, made with the help of the Chandra space observatory (“Chandra”), can help to better understand the “elusive type” of black holes.

Although astronomers have repeatedly witnessed the absorption of stars by black holes, but until now, observations of destruction of this type on a larger scale were absent. This large-scale annihilation of stars could explain the formation of intermediate-mass black holes through the rapid growth of a smaller black hole.

Astronomers have studied in detail two classes of black holes – stellar-mass black holes with masses ranging from 5 to 30 solar masses, and supermassive black holes, whose masses reach millions and billions of solar masses.

In recent years, evidence of the discovery of black holes of intermediate masses has begun to appear, but the mechanism of their origin is still under discussion.

These latest observations of dense clusters of stars at the centers of 108 galaxies, collected by the Chandra, suggest a mechanism for the formation of intermediate-mass black holes.

“When stars are so close together in these extremely dense clusters, they actively begin to turn into intermediate-mass black holes,” said Vivienne Baldassare of the University of Washington, USA, who is the main author of the new study.

“And the higher the population density of stars in a cluster, the higher the probability of an intermediate-mass black hole.”

According to the theoretical considerations put forward by the Baldassare team, a cluster of stars is characterized by a threshold density of stars – the number of stars in a certain volume of space – above which the central black hole in the cluster rapidly grows by “eating” nearby stars. This threshold density depends on the average velocity of the stars.

Alternative hypotheses for the formation of large-mass black holes located at the centers of galaxies include the collapse of a giant gas and dust cloud or the collapse of a giant directly into a medium-sized black hole.

However, both of these mechanisms require conditions that scientists believe existed only in the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang.


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