How Can a Supermassive Black Hole Form in a Galaxy Only 900 Million Years After the Big Bang?

Question: It is a challenging research topics to search how supermassive black holes formed at the early epoch. I am very much interested to do my future research on this topic. Could how please tell me what can be possible solution for this problem? How can SMBH formed at early epoch?  – Anirban

Answer: The discovery of a supermassive black hole (SMBH) in a quasar (a special kind of galaxy) which is at a redshift which places it at an age of only about 900 million years after the Big Bang certainly pushes the theory of the formation of SMBHs.  One of the most popular theoretical scenarios associates the first massive black holes with the remnants of the first generation of stars in a galaxy.  I believe, though, that the discovery of this very young SMBH means that the formation of black holes must happen over a much shorter timescale than previous believed.

Jeff Mangum

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Can Black Holes Swallow Planets and Moons?

Question: Can black holes swallow planets and moons?  – Chandi

Answer: Black Holes swallow anything that gets trapped in its voracious gravitational pull.  Stars, gas, dust, planets, moons, etc. can all be swallowed by a Black Hole.

Jeff Mangum

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What are those Jets Streaming from a Black Hole?

Question: On a recent visit to the Very Large Array we saw a radio image of a black hole with two streams of gas and dust being ejected from the area.  Is this essentially the EXIT for matter from the black hole?  Is this what is taking place at the center of our universe and if that hypothesis were correct, would there most likely be two universes?  Thank you in advance.  – Andy

Answer: The two streams of matter that are ejected from a galaxy which contains a black hole are due to the energy balancing process for matter which is being swallowed by a black hole.  As matter spirals into the center of a galaxy which contains a black hole it loses energy, this lost energy has to go somewhere, and a method for allowing that energy to be released is provided by jets which propagate outward from a black hole along the poles of its axis of rotation.  These jets are in fact what we measure at radio wavelengths.  This process of energy balance in black holes, though, is unrelated to the structure of our universe.

Jeff Mangum

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Can Black Holes Eat One Another?

Question: Ok so say the universe gets to a point where every black hole consumes everything including each other until your left with a single black hole. Or would this not be possible due to the universe ever expanding and just the vastness of the universe ? Just a thought.  – Danny

Answer: Space is actually a pretty empty place on average.  The WMAP cosmic microwave background probe measurements indicated that there are on average about 6 protons per cubic meter in the Universe.  I believe therefore that the possibility of black holes even interacting with each other is pretty small.

Jeff Mangum

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What are the Effects on Radio Waves When They Pass Near a Black Hole?

Question: What are the effects of radio waves when near a black holes event horizon?  – Aleksander

Answer: Assuming that you are asking what the effects of a black hole are on radio waves as they pass near an event horizon, these effects would be the same as those experienced by all electromagnetic waves.  Since the gravitational field near a black hole is “warped” by the intense gravitational field of the black hole, electromagnetic waves at all wavelengths, including radio waves, would be “bent” by this intense gravitational field.

Jeff Mangum

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What Happens to Matter that Falls into a Black Hole?

Question:  So a question from the uneducated. If all matter at the beginning was in one infinitely small point so incredibly charged with energy would that weight punch through space creating a hole in the universe  thus creating the first black hole perhaps the backlash of the initial tearing of space created such an explosion that the matter known and still unknown is the blowback from such an immense explosion?  Also does a black hole act like a tunnel through space or the inbetween space  dumping its matter out in nonspace slowly filling the nonspace with matter or does it tear through another location in space erupting the energy into space thus recycling the the energy?  Or is a black hole an infinitely deep pit in the space as we know it and just continuously sucking in all matter and energy?  – Sean

Answer:  Based on current accepted theory of the structure of black holes all we can say is that matter eventually falls onto the singularity, or point where the gravitational force is infinite, and is therefore compressed to a single point.  Your last suggestion is the one most consistent with what theorists believe is the structure inside a black hole.  As you can probably imagine, it is very hard to obtain measurements of black holes that we can use to better constrain these theories, making them rather open to interpretation.

Jeff Mangum

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How Can a Black Hole Have an Outflow?

Question:  Black holes are defined as a zone where the gravity is so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape from being drawn in, yet “Fermi Bubbles” are where ” energy often escapes from these systems (Galaxies ) in a jet”.  This sounds like a contradiction.  Is there an explanation?  – Stephen

Answer:  The Fermi bubbles are two large gamma-ray structures in located above and below the Galactic center.   At the moment there are several theories as to the origin of these bubbles, including past dynamical processes that resulted in large amounts of gas being pushed into these regions.  The most plausible dynamical process would be the outflow from a supermassive black hole.  Even though black holes swallow matter as it orbits in a disk-like structure around the black hole, a small fraction of that matter escapes vertically via an outflow of material, a consequence of the need for the black hole plus disk system to conserve angular momentum.  So, in fact, a black hole system can produce both an inward and outward flow of matter.

Jeff Mangum

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Can One Send a Spacecraft Into a Black Hole?

Question:  [Would it be possible to] send a spacecraft into a black hole?  – Cyrus

Answer:  Yes, but if we were to do that we should make sure to use one of our least expensive spacecrafts!  And there better not be any astronauts in the spacecraft.  This is all because when something enters a black hole it can never come out.  The spacecraft would be gobbled up by the black hole never to be seen from again.

Jeff Mangum

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Can Black Holes Explode?

Question:  Can a black hole explode?  – Dirk

Answer:  Black holes don’t really “explode”, which implies that they generate a large outburst of energy which ultimately tears them apart, but they do have outbursts (also, unfortunately, referred to as “explosions”).  The black hole at the center of our Galaxy, for example, appears to have produced an outburst of energy about two million years ago.

Jeff Mangum

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Can Gravitationally-Lensed Objects be Studied at Any Wavelength?

Question:  As per definition, Gravitational lensing refers to bending of light rays from a distant source around a massive object (Galaxy cluster) which tends to magnify the background light source. If visible light rays bend around those massive objects then X-rays, Gamma rays, UV and IR rays which forms a part of electromagnetic spectrum must also bend around those massive objects. If true, Are there any initiative to detect those distant lensed invisible objects using the space observatories(Chandra X-ray, Spitzer IR etc.)?  – Vinod

Answer:  Yes.  In fact, just a few days ago there was a press release announcing the detection of the spin of a black hole using the gravitationally-lensed x-ray emission from a black hole in a distant quasar.  Gravitational lensing has also been used to study galaxies using the Spitzer Space Telescope.  In fact, as their is no wavelength dependence to the gravitational lens effect it is possible to study gravitationally-lensed objects at all wavelengths.

Jeff Mangum

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