After scientists studied new data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and created computer simulations, they determined that black holes are actually less like donuts and more like fountains.
In other words, as Phys.org reports, the large rings of gas that can be seen hovering around active supermassive black holes aren’t really shaped like donuts, despite their confusing appearance. What is really happening here is that gas that has been expelled combines with gas that is falling in, which gives black holes their characteristic swirling and circular appearance, which scientists have likened to a water fountain.
The vast majority of galaxies have spectacular and supermassive black holes in the centers of them which are far heavier than the sun, sometimes even billions of times heavier. While some of the black holes in these galaxies are active eaters and suck in material, astronomers now suggest that rather than just dropping straight into these black holes, matter may actually be clustering around them which gives them their donut-like pattern.
In the most recent study on black holes, Takuma Izumi, from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), utilized ALMA to study in greater detail the supermassive black hole that can be found in the Circinus Galaxy, which is 14 million light-years away from our planet. After observing this black hole, astronomers took their findings and compared these with a computer simulation they had created of gas preparing to be sucked into a black hole.
— Phys.org (@physorg_com) November 30, 2018
By comparing their observations with the computer simulation, astronomers discovered that rather than the donut aspect of the black hole being a hard and solid substance, it was really comprised of dynamic gaseous components.
“Previous theoretical models set a priori assumptions of rigid donuts. Rather than starting from assumptions, our simulation started from the physical equations and showed for the first time that the gas circulation naturally forms a donut. Our simulation can also explain various observational features of the system,” Keiichi Wada of Kagoshima University in Japan explained.
Izumi added that astronomy textbooks may need to be changed after the latest research on black holes.
“By investigating the motion and distribution of both the cold molecular gas and warm atomic gas with ALMA, we demonstrated the origin of the so-called ‘donut’ structure around active black holes. Based on this discovery, we need to rewrite the astronomy textbooks.”
The new study which likens black holes to fountains rather than donuts has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.