Black holes are parts of spacetime displaying such powerful gravitational pull that nothing – even light – can escape. Black holes were thought to take on the shape of a donut. But scientists now need to re-write the astronomical rulebooks after proving black holes actually resemble 3D fountains.
It has until now been assumed that gas surrounding black holes was donut-shaped.
But scientists now believe the reality about black holes is far more complex, after studying one 14 million light-years away.
Gas surrounding black holes spews from them in a 3D fountain, new research has revealed.
Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimetre Array (ALMA) simulations now suggest the donut is really a more bizarre structure compromised of three constantly circulating gases.
Researchers were observing a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Ciricinus galaxy.
Data from this was compared this with a simulation of gas into a black hole, using the Cray XC30 ATERUI supercomputer.
Their conclusions challenge the belief that matter falling into a black hole builds up around it to form a donut structure.
The results now suggest it is more of a three-step process.
First, the cold gas forms a disk near the plane of rotation, heating up until the molecules break down.
Some of these molecules are expelled above and below the disk, then create a fountain-like structure.
“Previous theoretical models set a prior assumptions of rigid donuts,” said Keiichi Wada, a Kagoshima University theoretician.
“Rather than starting from assumptions, our simulation started from the physical equations and showed for the first time that the gas circulation naturally forms a donut.
“Our simulation can also explain various observational features of the system.”
These findings have upended what we thought knew.
Keiichi Wada added: “By investigating the motion and distribution of both the cold molecular gas and warm atomic gas with ALMA, we demonstrated the origin of the so-called ‘donut’ structure around active black holes.
“Based on this discovery, we need to rewrite the astronomy textbooks.”