Countering the previous findings, a new study co-authored by Indian-origin researcher has revealed that the thick donut-shaped disks of gas and dust that surround nearly all supermassive black holes in the universe are ‘clumpy’ instead of being smooth.
Until 1980’s researchers didn’t know that some black holes were hidden behind gas and dust cloud and as a solution researchers presented a theory back in mid 80s that supermassive black holes are surrounded by a donut-shaped clouds while others are not.
In addition, previous telescopes weren’t advanced enough to see black holes hidden beneath donut-shaped clouds also called tori that feed and nourish the growing black holes tucked inside. Astronomers confirmed presence massive black holes within tori recently.
For the study, researchers used data from the NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space observatory. Co-author Poshak Gandhi from the University of Southampton in Britain used NuSTAR’s strong X-ray vision to peek into the densest of the tori surrounding a supermassive black hole.
This black hole lies at the centre of a well-studied spiral galaxy called NGC 1068, located 47 million light-years away in the Cetus constellation. The observations revealed that the rotating material is not a simple, rounded donut but more like defective, lumpy donuts that a donut shop might throw away.
The new discovery is the first time that this clumpiness has been observed in an ultra-thick donut, and supports the idea that this phenomenon may be common, the study said.
The study was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.