Based on scientific evidence, every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its core. What scientists have always speculated on about the universe’s history is that these black holes are the building blocks of galaxies – they seem to be created around these black holes.
Black holes form when a star that has hundreds of times the sun’s mass collapses. But supermassive black holes are a different breed altogether, as these have over a hundred thousand to a billion times more mass than the sun. And some of them are growing at rapid speeds.
Scientists have been taking a look at the growth of these supermassive black holes, how they grow and how fast the rate is. Black holes as we know them grow by drawing in surrounding matter, following the Eddington limit, which means only a certain quantity of matter can enter a black hole at a given rate.
A team of scientists has suggested a new theory, however, to explain how black holes become supermassive objects so quickly: the direct collapse of gas without forming a star first.
This new model states that instead of the known process of a star exploding and sucking material into it, direct collapse black holes are formed when a massive cloud of gas collapses under its own weight. Since material doesn’t need to spiral into these black holes to grow, they bypass the Eddington limit and fall in a straight line into the black hole, making them grow rapidly.
There have not been any documented examples of these direct collapse black holes, but the team, composed of international scientists, have calculated what such a black hole might look like. While the matter closest to the black hole would emit very high energy photons, all of the surrounding gas would absorb these photons then gradually re-emit them at lower energy levels. By the time they can be seen, they would show up in the infrared area of the spectrum, with increasing intensity.
Based on this model, scientists undertook a project to find a signal they could look for. Using a multi-instrument campaign called CANDELS GOODS-S, the researchers checked for objects that could fit the description they had. They found Object 29023 and Object 14800, but these failed to prove their theory as the objects were emitting energies at extremely high ratios that would have surpassed even the formation of our own Milky Way, which would not make them black holes.
The theory is still being worked on and with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists hope they can gather more data and images on some of the earliest objects in the universe.