Making the mega-band: Exploring how black holes become supermassive

June 5, 2013

( —Rock stars live fast, die young and end their days self-destructively. University of Alberta postdoctoral fellow Jeanette Gladstone says, surprisingly, some stars live the same way.

While most live long and happy lives, just like our Sun, before dying quietly to become a white dwarf, a few others take on the rock star persona. These stars burn through their fuel rapidly, dying in a huge explosion that results in a black hole. The problem is most black holes are incredibly difficult to see because their extreme gravitational pull attracts anything that strays too close, even light! Yet with the right partner, this strong gravity can also lead to these rock stars' comebacks, allowing us to observe them long after their death. If a star strays too close, it can be slowly torn apart and eaten by the black hole.

These stellar mass black holes weigh between 3 and 100 times the mass of our Sun, but they are just garage bands compared to space's equivalent to Muse and the Rolling Stones. that live in the centers of galaxies can weigh hundreds of thousands to billions of times the . Gladstone says it remains a mystery how these rock stars made it so big. Supermassive black holes could have begun as indie bands that rocketed to stardom with a brand new #1 hit. To do this, the black holes would have to gorge excessively, at rates that require . We might also expect to see some black holes that are intermediate in mass between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes in our , like a band that is consistently releasing albums, but never making it truly big.

Gladstone, the Avadh Bhatia Fellow in the Department of Physics at the University of Alberta, spoke on May 30, 2013, at the annual meeting for Canadian astronomers to present her survey of the nearest bizarre black holes that are either rapidly gorging or intermediate in mass, and discuss how mega-band black holes make it big.

Explore further: Evidence found for existence of intermediate size black hole

Related Stories

Black holes growing faster than expected

January 16, 2013

(—Astronomers from Swinburne University of Technology have discovered how supermassive black holes grow - and it's not what was expected.

The origin of the s-star cluster at the galactic center

June 5, 2013

( —Scientists Fabio Antonini, of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, and David Merritt, of the Rochester Institute of Technology, have developed a new theory that explains the orbits of the massive ...

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.