Black Holes Destroy Thousands of Stars as They Grow According to New Study

According to a new paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, black holes destroy thousands of stars as they grow.

During the course of the study, the researchers surveyed over 100 galaxies to find signs of growing black holes devouring thousands of stars in their vicinity. The scientists found that 29 of the galaxies showed evidence of black holes near their centers.

The group recently revealed four images of these galaxies, NGC3344, NGC 6503, NGC 1385, and NGC 1566 which were taken by Hubble Space Telescope. The researchers later overlayed them with imaging from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Most of these galaxies contain multiple black holes.

The astronomers claimed that the results show a “violent path for at least some of these black holes.” According to the study, these black holes devoured thousands of stars as they grew. The black holes responsible for this destruction are stellar-mass and are fueled by “runaway growth”. The stellar-mass black holes are the smallest type discovered by scientists so far. Although they’re usually 5 to 30 times of the mass of our Sun, they become “intermediate-mass black holes” when they suffer from runaway growth.

During this growth period, the black holes continue to destroy nearby stars to grow. Despite this nature, these are significantly smaller than supermassive black holes that can be found at the center of different galaxies.

While we’ll have to wait to find out more, the astronomers claimed that the black holes’ environment might play a key role during formation of the “intermediate black holes”. For instance, some star clusters pass by the growing black holes without any issue. However, if the cluster exceeds a threshold value, a stellar-mass black hole at the center of the cluster may undergo rapid growth and devour the stars.

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