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Donut-shaped disks around supermassive black holes aren’t smooth but clumpy

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Scientists in the past thought that thick donut-shaped disks of gas and dust clouds that surround supermassive black holes are smooth. However, a new study has countered the old theory and says that clouds made of gas and dust particles around the supermassive black holes are ‘clumpy’.

Previously, scientists didn’t know about any gas like structure around black holes. It was in 1980’s when the first study suggested the presence of donut-shaped disks of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. It stated that only supermassive black holes are hidden beneath gas and dust clouds and similar cloud structures are absent in normal black holes.

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Researchers explained that before 1980’s, telescopes weren’t evolved enough to record dust clouds around supermassive black holes. However, as the equipment became better and technologically advanced, researchers were able to observe those hidden things. It was after 1980’s that scientists established a theory that donut-shaped clouds also called tori feeds and nourishes the budding black holes. And supermassive black holes grow inside tori.

Now, researchers from the University of Southampton in Britain used data from  the NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space observatory, to give birth to the new theory.

Indian-origin co-author Poshak Gandhi said that he along with his team studied the supermassive black holes lying at the centre of the spiral galaxy named NGC-1068, located 47 million light-years away in the Cetus constellation. After observing the clouds, researchers came to the conclusion that rotating materials around supermassive black holes aren’t simple and smooth, instead these materials are defective and clumpy.

It is the first time when clumpiness of tori has been observed by a group of researchers.

The findings appeared in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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