COLLEGE PARK, Md., May 26 (UPI) — NASA says data from its Swift satellite have helped astronomers determine why only about one percent of supermassive black holes emit vast amounts of energy.
Space agency scientists said the new data confirm black holes “light up” when galaxies collide, and the findings might offer insight into the future behavior of the black hole in our own Milky Way galaxy.
The scientists said intense emission from galaxy centers, or nuclei, arises near a supermassive black hole containing between a million and a billion times the sun’s mass. Giving off as much as 10 billion times the sun’s energy, some of the active galactic nuclei include quasars and blazars.
“Theorists have shown that the violence in galaxy mergers can feed a galaxy’s central black hole,” said Michael Koss, the study’s lead author and a graduate student at the University of Maryland. “The study elegantly explains how the black holes switched on.”
The research that also included Neil Gehrels, Richard Mushotzky, Sylvain Veilleux and Lisa Winter is to be reported in the June 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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