LANL Models Supermassive Black Holes in the Early Universe

Recent simulation points to an earlier arrival.

A recent simulation at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) could help to explain how, why, and when supermassive black holes appeared in the early universe. Most experts believe there are limits in how fast a supermassive black hole can grow, and the recent discovery that supermassive black holes did indeed exist has raised questions about the prevailing theories. The simulation, which modeled the process of star collapse, showed that supermassive black holes could indeed form much earlier than expected.

Joseph Smidt of the Theoretical Design Division of LANL states, “It turns out that, while supermassive black holes have a growth speed limit, certain types of massive stars do not. We asked, what if we could find a place where stars could grow much faster, perhaps to the size of many thousand suns; could they form supermassive black holes in less time?”

The simulation confirmed the possibility of fast-forming supermassive black holes, and it also revealed behavior that has already been observed in studies of interacting galaxies. The model closely matched the observational data on “… star formation rates, galaxy density profiles, and thermal and ionization rates in gasses.”

According to Smidt, “… to see the back hole inducing star formation and driving the dynamics in ways that we’ve observed in nature was really icing on the cake.”