No Matter Their Size Black Holes 'Feed' In The Same Way

Science Daily Research by UK astronomers, published in Nature (7th December 2006) reveals that the processes at work in black holes of all sizes are the same and that supermassive black holes are simply scaled up versions of small Galactic black holes.

An accreting black hole and a binary star. (Credit: R. Hynes)

For many years astronomers have been trying to understand the similarities between stellar-mass sized Galactic black hole systems and the supermassive black holes in active galactic nuclei (AGN).In particular, do they vary fundamentally in the same way, but perhaps with any characteristic timescales being scaled up in proportion to the mass of the black hole. If so, the researchers proposed, we could determine how AGN should behave on cosmological timescales by studying the brighter and much faster galactic systems.

Professor Ian McHardy, from the University of Southampton, heads up the research team whose findings are published today (along with colleagues Drs Elmar Koerding and Christian Knigge and Professor Rob Fender, and Dr Phil Uttley, currently working at the University of Amsterdam). Their observations were made using data from NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer and XMM Newton's X-ray Observatory.


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