A new model shows how an elusive type of black hole can be formed in the gas surrounding their supermassive counterparts. In research published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, the City University of New York, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics propose that intermediate-mass black holes - light-swallowing celestial objects with masses ranging from hundreds to many thousands of times the mass of the Sun - can grow in the gas disks around supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies. The physical mechanism parallels the model astrophysicists use to describe the growth of giant planets in the gas disks surrounding stars.
Image and caption
An image can be downloaded from http://www.amnh.org/science/papers/intermediateblackhole.php (http://www.amnh.org/science/papers/intermediateblackhole.php)
Caption: This simulated image shows the interaction between a massive gas giant planet (comparable in mass to Jupiter) and a surrounding protoplanetary disk of gas and dust. New research predicts that intermediate-mass black holes can create gaps in gas disks around supermassive black holes, analogous to the gaps produced by giant planets in disks around stars. The gap provides a signature that might give scientists the first glimpse of this elusive type of black hole. Credit: Phil Armitage, University of Colorado
Research paper: B. McKernan, K.E.S. Ford, W. Lyra, H.B. Perets, "Intermediate mass black holes in AGN disks - I. Production & Growth," Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. (2012).
A preprint of the paper can be downloaded from http://arxiv.org/abs/1206.2309 (http://arxiv.org/abs/1206.2309)
Notes for editors
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