Early Black Holes Are Starving, Not Feasting

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A new black hole may not voraciously devour nearby gas — because it may kick out most of the gas in its neighborhood, a new study shows.

Marcelo Alvarez, of Stanford University, and his colleagues performed a new supercomputer simulation designed to track the fate of the universe’s first black holes. They found that, counter to expectations, young black holes couldn’t efficiently gorge themselves on nearby gas.

“The first stars were much more massive than most stars we see today, upwards of 100 times the mass of our sun,” said John Wise, a post-doctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and one of the study’s authors. “For the first time, we were able to simulate in detail what happens to the gas around those stars before and after they form black holes.”

The intense radiation and strong outflows from these massive stars caused nearby gas to dissipate. “These stars essentially cleared out most of the gas in their vicinity,” Wise said. A fraction of these first stars didn’t end their lives in grand supernovae explosions. Instead, they collapsed directly into black holes.

But the black holes were born into a gas-depleted cavity and, with little gas to feed on, they grew very slowly. “During the 200 million years of our simulation, a 100 solar-mass black hole grew by less than one percent of its mass,” Alvarez said.

Movie, credit KIPAC/SLAC/M. Alvarez, T. Abel and J. Wise
Movie, credit KIPAC/SLAC/M. Alvarez, T. Abel and J. Wise

Starting with data taken from observations of the cosmic background radiation — a flash of light that occurred 380,000 years after the big bang that presents the earliest view of cosmic structure — the researchers applied the basic laws that govern the interaction of matter and allowed their model of the early universe to evolve. The complex simulation included hydrodynamics, chemical reactions, the absorption and emission of radiation, and star formation.

In the simulation, cosmic gas slowly coalesced under the force of gravity and eventually formed the first stars. These massive, hot stars burned bright for a short time, emitting so much energy in the form of starlight that they pushed away nearby gas clouds.

These stars could not sustain such a fiery existence for long, and they soon exhausted their internal fuel. One of the stars in the simulation collapsed under its own weight to form a black hole. With only wisps of gas nearby, the black hole was essentially “starved” of matter on which to grow.

Yet, despite its strict diet, the black hole had a dramatic effect on its surroundings. This was revealed through a key aspect of the simulation called radiative feedback, which accounted for the way X-rays emitted by the black hole affected distant gas.

Even on a diet, a black hole produces copious X-rays. This radiation not only kept nearby gas from falling in, but it heated gas a hundred light-years away to several thousand degrees. Hot gas cannot come together to form new stars. “Even though the black holes aren’t growing significantly, their radiation is intense enough to shut off star formation nearby for tens and maybe even hundreds of millions of years,” said Alvarez.

Source: NASA. The study appears in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

46 Replies to “Early Black Holes Are Starving, Not Feasting”

  1. Interesting result.

    The problem is now how to explain AGN’s in the early universe, where they are abundant.

    The radiation from AGN is believed to be a result of accretion of mass by the supermassive black hole at the centre of the host galaxy.

    But where is the material coming from, if not gathered from nearby stars as this study shows?

  2. I wonder if these extremely distant (z=15) hypothetical objects could in any way be related to the compact massive galaxies just studied by HST and Gemini South (see: http://www.universetoday.com/2009/08/05/hubble-gemini-spot-hyperactive-stars-in-small-young-galaxies/#comments )? Seems that both types of objects are massive, compact, yet deficient in raw materials to form new stars. Might these compact galaxies be the evolved, noninteracting relatives of these early black holes?

  3. I wonder too Jon Hanford, because it is obvious that the matter accretion came from the early supernova’s. They should have evolved, all together roughly the same time into in SMBH’s.

    Are they supercompact due to a high amount of early black holes? I wonder.

    They must have been ejected in a later epoch, taking with them some of the debris due to the enormous amount of supernova’s.

  4. Sorry, did not mean Supermassive early BH’s. Just smaller ones – “low mass” BH’s of course.

    But they would have been ejected due to the relatively close distance to the galaxy center.

  5. Oh, I see that due too there low mass the ejection of these early BH’s might have taken some extra time…

    Maybe just enough to explain the great density of those early galaxy’s.

  6. Haha, “too there”.
    It’s funny – I am foreign, yes.

    Sorry for that too, and now I am finished.

    Thank you all 🙂

  7. From the article:

    “For the first time, we were able to simulate in detail what happens to the gas around those stars before and after they form black holes.”

    The intense radiation and strong outflows from these massive stars caused nearby gas to dissipate. “These stars essentially cleared out most of the gas in their vicinity,” Wise said. A fraction of these first stars didn’t end their lives in grand supernovae explosions. Instead, they collapsed directly into black holes.

    But the black holes were born into a gas-depleted cavity and, with little gas to feed on, they grew very slowly. “During the 200 million years of our simulation, a 100 solar-mass black hole grew by less than one percent of its mass,” Alvarez said.”

    I’m sorry, but this is just silly.

    Simulating something that supposedly happened, what, 13 billion years ago?

    Fat chance.

    And the so-called “big bang” is creationist on its face: “Something out of nothing.”

    And that’s what the priest who came up with the idea, thought about it.

    Why?

    Because he wanted to reconcile religion with science.

    And Catholic doctrine is, “something out of nothing”.

  8. @ Anaconda,

    Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

  9. @ Anaconda,

    Proverbs 11:29 He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

  10. @Anaconda/@Oilismastery

    Enough. I know that Anaconda is your sock puppet pseudonym for Oilismastery. It’s sad that you hide behind an alter ego alias to backup your ridiculous straw man arguments. I have followed, with amused interest, both your oilismastery and anaconda shills getting banned from forum after forum over the last 6 months due to your incessant trolling.

  11. @Anaconda/Oilismastery

    Sorry, didn’t finish my rant… You contribute nothing but quotes taken out of context and sham straw man arguments. Stop pushing your personal philosophy, I for one don’t want to hear it.

  12. Praise be that imode (and hopefully others) can see through this charade and are intelligent enough to separate fact from fiction. A troll is a troll.

    OTOH, Hannes brings up an excellent point (also echoed elsewhere by Dr Flimmer) as to what came first in the cosmos: black holes or stars. Kind of a chicken-or egg type of question, but important nonetheless. Hopefully our growing armada of satellite and ground based telescopes are poised or planned to answer these deep questions 🙂

  13. “I’m sorry, but this is just silly.”

    Yes, I agree … but what’s silly is the attempt to discredit some scientific research using only the argument that a scientist involved held a particular religious belief.

    Tom Bridgman has a blog specifically about this:
    “Science and Belief Systems” (http://dealingwithcreationisminastronomy.blogspot.com/2009/08/science-and-belief-systems.html).

    It’s worth quoting a few sentences: “In the long run, the science that succeeds is the science that works, regardless of other beliefs of original discoverer. The best demonstration of that is the fact that science makes technologies that work independent of the belief system of the user. Your cell phone or computer works the same whether you are Christian, Muslim, or atheist.”

  14. {expletive!} Thanks IVAN3MAN; I made that mistake at least once before, you’d think I’d learn to avoid it, wouldn’t you?

  15. You know what? I do believe in god and I am working on my master’s thesis right now. Shame on me, how dare I? Is it so impossible to do both, good science and believing in god?

  16. This would seem to present us with a problem. Somehow supermassive black holes M > 10^6M_{sol} were generated in the early universe which were involved with the formation of galaxies.

  17. @ Jon Hanford

    You mean this:
    http://www.universetoday.com/2009/08/05/hubble-gemini-spot-hyperactive-stars-in-small-young-galaxies/comment-page-1/#comment-69353

    Btw: As I must see, now, my suggestion in the end was wrong…

    @ Lawrence B. Crowell

    It is not said that those first stars gave birth to the SMBHs, is it?
    About one year ago I heard a talk about how self-gravitating accretion disk can account for SMBHs to grow in less than 1 Myr. That was impressive. Maybe I can search if there is a paper somewhere…

  18. “In the long run, the science that succeeds is the science that works, regardless of other beliefs of original discoverer. The best demonstration of that is the fact that science makes technologies that work independent of the belief system of the user…”

    Agreed.

    However, Science doesn’t have any “technologies” based on the so-called “big bang” hypothesis to verify whether it “works” or not.

    What we do have is the history and that history suggests that Lemaitre didn’t propose his hypothesis (“big bang”) based on observation & measurement, but, rather, on his intuition and his desire to reconcile his faith and his science.

    Again, notice most of the reponses are in the form of empty ridicule because really it is about “modern” astronomy’s faith and dogma:

    “The dominant theory of cosmology, the Big Bang, is contradicted by observation, and has been for some time. The theory’s predictions of light element abundance, large-scale structure, the age of the universe and the cosmic background radiation(CBR) are in clear contradiction with massive observational evidence, using almost any standard criteria for scientific validity. This situation is not new. In 1992, I reviewed these contradictions, and concluded that theory had already been clearly falsified. Since that time, the evidence against the Big Bang has only strengthened.” — Erik Lerner

    http://bigbangneverhappened.org/p27.htm

    So, the Universe started off as a “singularity” or something, what, smaller than an atom? Or, what, we don’t know.

    Really, its just counting “angels on a pinhead”.

  19. First “Bostwick”, now “Erik”?

    Simple spelling mistakes like these don’t help your credibility Anaconda, especially when you a) don’t fix (or even acknowledge) them, and b) when they are key to doing what you advise (namely, follow the scientific evidence; not a problem wrt Eric Lerner, but it sure was wrt Bostick, wasn’t it?)

    It is true that, in 1992, Eric Lerner reviewed the field, and he wrote a book about his findings.

    We do not need to question Lerner’s statement about what he concluded … however, an examination of scientific evidence surely rests on more than taking Lerner at his word, in a document that was not peer-reviewed, doesn’t it? After all, to do so would be to behave in a manner that Anaconda has been vehemently decrying for months now (what was the phrase? “drinking KoolAid”?)

    Let’s examine some scientific evidence, shall we?

    Let’s start with “Five-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Cosmological Interpretation” (link is to the ArXiV preprint abstract; in my next comment I’ll provide a link to the relevant WMAP site where the full set of papers, as published, may be downloaded, along with all the relevant data):
    http://arxiv.org/abs/0803.0547

    Shall we discuss this objective, scientific evidence Anaconda?

  20. Here we go again… It may not be possible to understand HOW interdimensional vertices induce the observed torsional flux within a ‘black hole’ as matter injected into our ‘local’ space/time reference as those energies slow below light speed unless we leave ‘normal’ consciousness. That consciousness being an artifact of our 4 dimensional frame of reference – aka XYZ + time.

    GOD, in this case, may then be refered to as a ‘cosmic consciousness’ functioning beyond the restraints of those traditionally applied observations. THEREFORE, our arguments FROM this frame of reference are inconclusive, even faulty.

    Multiverse unification theory anyone?

  21. I like this little reminder:

    There once was a Lady named ‘Bright’,
    whose speed was much faster than light!

    She went out one day, in a relative way,
    and came back on the previous night!

  22. I’m very interested in this Anaconda, because it involves the question of the extent to which astronomy (astrophysics, cosmology) is a science (ditto, to a lesser extent, geology, biology, ecology, meteorology, …).

    “In the long run, the science that succeeds is the science that works, regardless of other beliefs of original discoverer. The best demonstration of that is the fact that science makes technologies that work independent of the belief system of the user…”

    Agreed.

    However, Science doesn’t have any “technologies” based on the so-called “big bang” hypothesis to verify whether it “works” or not.

    If we start with the assumption that in situ measurements of the universe outside a region approx a light-year in radius centred on the Sun will not be obtained within the lifetime of any adult or teenager today, nor regions such as between the Sun’s core and a few hundred km of the top of the photosphere (OK, maybe a few thousand), nor the interiors of the planets, nor … in what sense can astronomy (etc) be called a science?

    If we can discuss this – calmly – and reach some mutually agreed conclusions, we may then be able to move on to the question of the extent to which personal belief systems relate to that science (or not, as the case might be).

    Fair enough?

  23. “For each, for the joy of working and each in his separate star,
    Shall paint the thing as he sees It, for the
    God of things as they are.”

    SOM

  24. Anaconda, explain the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect. I’d like to know, how you (or EU/PU/PC) can explain what happens “out there”….

  25. @ Anaconda
    How really stupid do you think everyone is here?

    Just again the usual mumbo-jumbo electroclaptrap – and you know it.

    Liars and fraudsters are so easy to pick up. They squeal out loud when the think they the know something, then run away when their flaws are completely exposed. Then they have the audacity to pretend it wasn’t true and continue on with the diatribe and claptrap again, and again and again.

    Really in the end you know absolutely nothing.

    Game’s up jackass!!

  26. Anaconda, here is a story from the future…

    …We know that the first population III stars did not have a long lifespan, because of their high mass.
    If we assume they all formed roughly at the same time – they will have died also almost at the same time.
    We also know that the first star systems must have been binary’s.
    When a Pop III star, which is way above Chandrasekhar’s limit, explodes it will form a Black Hole of intermediate mass .
    The companion star will not form a BH, but will lose all of it’s outer layers containing the last remnants of low-mass fissionable elements.
    What is left is a star with no fuel for fission, almost solely consisting of metals. But it does have a layered structure.
    The core is presumed to be made of pure Neutronium. The second layer is filled with extremely heavy elements, which all have a mass greater then lead (Pb).
    The third layer is a thick layer of lead. Then you have a fourth layer of mainly iron.
    The surface of the star is a mixture of low-mass metals.

    The nuclear fission capable elements in the second layer are forming the greatest nuclear plants in the history of the universe. They make the colour of this star an eery blue, due to synchrotron radiation. They were given the funny name “Eery Blue Stars” (EBS’s) because they have such a blue colour in the visible spectrum, although they are very faint.

    After millions of years the BH will digest the EBS, resulting in a GRB.
    The gigantic release of gamma radiation will cause tremendous X-rays in the rapid expanding cloud of matter previously released during the supernova event.

    The Neutronium core of the EBR is split into it’s parts. Regardless of the matter vs anti-matter composition of the early universe they will decay into electrons and protons, the reason for this Handedness of the Universe is still under debate.
    It explains the process called baryogenesis and the baryon asymmetry.

    The electrons also are easily accreted (due to their speed) in the primordial BH. The result is an accretion flow consisting of mainly electrons from the poles of the BH.
    The stream of electrons is also producing a magnetic field, although a BH cannot have a charge itself, but the surrounding can.
    The BH will contain a positive charge, but that doesn’t matter due to it’s nature, BH’s don’t care about charge.

    The early accretion jets gives the universe a negative charge – cancelling out anti-matter.

    As a result of the numerous explosions we see GRB’s and Quasars in the early universe.

    … this is a smalll excerpt from a future astronomy textbook 😉

  27. Hannes, have you any links to peer-reviewed published papers on ‘Eerie Blue Stars’ (and who coined the word?) where this term is actually used?

    As usual PRPP papers are kindly requested to be sure I really understand aspects of this ‘theory’. I would be mightily anxious to see a complete EU refutation of the findings of the four asteroids rnentioned above. If you personally have ‘evidence’ in this regard, why not share this knowledge globally. Or is it “you can’t handle the truth” dogma ?

  28. Oh, did I forget to mention that the textbook also says the early BH’s had single jets?

    Due to the magnetic field created by their own motion, the accreting electrons went to the positive pole of the primordial BH. The heavier metals did not accrete, but went straight to the event horizon (they also decayed, but too late for accretion).
    It created a momentum for the BH’s. Therefore it speeded up the creation of the first SMBH’s due to merges.
    The other remaining left-over pBH’s flew away taking with them (in time) some of the debris from the first SN’s, creating smaller galaxy’s of their own. These galaxy’s where extremely dense because -due to their speed- the BH’s could not grasp matter too far away from the event horizon.
    So just matter close enough to the BH was grabbed, remember the mass was still intermediate of these first pBH. They already gathered speed.
    That’s why the universe had an early expansion.

  29. Jon,

    I just wanted to say to Anaconda – you don’t need any plasma to have an extremely interesting universe.

    🙂

  30. Haha,

    b.t.w. I should have said earlier, to be really precise, that the heavy metal IONS from the desintegrating Eerie Blue Star’s did not accrete.

  31. @ Hannes,

    Referring to your post above, that should be fusion, not “fission” — fission is the splitting of atoms.

    As for Anaconda, looks like he has buggered off this thread as well as the next thread.

  32. @IVAN3MAN, thanks!

    Should have been:

    …The companion star will not form a BH, but will lose all of it’s outer layers containing the last remnants of low-mass FUSIONABLE elements, like hydrogen, helium or carbon.

    But the second layer of the EBS contains only FISSIONABLE elements, such as Uranium etc.

  33. The textbook continuous btw.

    There is also an explanation for the accelerated expansion of the universe and for dark matter and dark energy involved.

    ..When the decaying neutronium core of the the first EBS fell apart, it produced a stream of extremely heated and accelerated electrons.
    The baryonic protons on the other hand were not as efficient in energy transfer causing differences in chaotic behaviour. And the sum of a group of electrons carrying energy, called plasma, is greater than the parts.
    More than half of the Poynting flux of these electrons have been converted into kinetic energy flux, and the terminal Lorentz factor approached the maximum possible value (?? ? ?).
    Early studies concerning the efficiency of electrons accreting gave a too low value concerning power-efficiency rating of electrons like in this early study: http://aps.arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0409421

    There were more electrons moving in different vectors than protons, most which went straight to the event horizon.
    The accretion rate of electrons was therefore higher than expected, causing a discrepancy in electrical charge on the outside of the primordial black hole.
    The BH got a positive charge (which doesn’t matter actually), where the jets did accrete a surplus of super-accelerated electrons.
    These accreting electrons with a restmass of more than 207 times greater than the electron (105.6 MeV) are still showing up in our earth’s atmosphere today. They are called muons (and tau) leptons. Although decaying very rapidly in our atmosphere they have quite a lonely travel history.
    As even the anti-matter EBS’ produced mainly electrons, the BH’s produced jets which cancelled out early anti-matter baryons. This did not have an great effect on the universe as a whole, but after some 5 billion years there was no anti-matter left.

    After that moment the universe expanded exponentially.
    The negative charge of the leptons caused an accellerated expansion.

  34. Where is Don Alexander?

    Don Alexander Says:
    October 24th, 2008 at 10:54 am
    @Hannes: Do you have the first idea how GRBs are even produced?

  35. For Don Alexander,
    who would probably ask how it’s possible the electrons from the second layer came through the third layer (lead) of the EBS, 🙂

    The textbook says about that:

    When bombarded with electrons from the second layer of lead plasma, the third layer expanded.

    Lead as an element has some very peculiar properties. The radiative loss in lead is exponentially growing with the energy-loss of the electrons involved.

    The electrons coming from the second layer in the EBS carried energies in the TeV range, releasing enormous amounts of energy. Part of this energy went back to the second layer, powering the endothermic reactions needed for the r-processes (which need high entropy). The rest of the remaining energy heated up the lead enough to make it behave like a plasma, fighting the pressure from gravity to slowly expand to a relatively thick (but not too dense) layer. It made it easier for the remaining electrons to pass.
    When hitting the layer above, mainly consisting of iron, it created a magnetic field while travelling further to the surface. The TeV electrons where in the maintime reduced to the MeV range, but easily went past the remaining layers. They now landed in a tremendously powerfull magnetic field.
    The synchroton radiation came into birth when the electrons followed the field-lines around the EBS, coiling around them.

    Sadly the EBS did not have a long lifespan, as it will be consumed by it’s ever hungry neighbour.

    But some were lucky, being not a part of a binary system. They made it, passing higher elements to future stars.

  36. Sorry, misread.

    “Lead as an element has some very peculiar properties. The radiative loss in lead is exponentially growing with the energy-loss of the electrons involved.”

    Should be:

    “Lead as an element has some very peculiar properties. The radiative loss in lead is exponentially growing with the energy-increase of the electrons involved.”

    Pff, beer is really bad while reading and writing at the same time.

  37. Another glass of beer revealed:

    “When bombarded with electrons from the second layer , the third layer of lead plasma expanded.”

    Is anyone reading this book also?
    Nice, I feel lonely. Do not understand a word of it, you know.

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