Paul M Suter He is an astrophysicist at State University of New York Stony Brook and Flatiron Institute, host Ask an astronaut And the Space Radio, And author How to die in space. He contributed to this article on Space.com Expert Voices: Opinions and Insights.
Astronomers do not understand the origins of the largest of them black holes in the universe. These black holes appear so early in the cosmic record that we might have to summon new physics to explain their appearance.
New research suggests an interesting origin story: The first black holes did not come from stars but rather from masses of super-strange, hypothetical particles known as graffitinos that managed to survive the early years of chaos. the big explosion.
A little too super
There are black holes and big black holes. The largest black holes in the universe, called “supermassive black holes” (SMBHs), are located at the centers of nearly every galaxy in the universe. Until th Milky Way It has one, a monster of 4 million solar masses, called Sagittarius A *.
Giant black holes in the modern universe are a truly remarkable sight to see, but in the past decade astronomers have revealed the existence of supermassive black holes at the dawn of stars and Galaxies, When the universe was not even a billion years old.
It’s strange because as far as we know, the only way black holes form is through the death of massive stars. When they die, they leave behind a black hole that is many times larger than the sun. To reach a supergiant state, they must merge with other black holes and / or consume as much gas as possible, increasing all of those millions of solar masses.
This takes time. a lot of time.
At the beginning of the universe, the stars themselves took hundreds of millions of years to appear for the first time. As far as we can tell, next to that was the first generation of stars and galaxies Supermassive black holes. There doesn’t seem to be enough time for those supermassive black holes to form by the usual, normal stellar death path, so there’s something fishy.
Either we don’t understand something fundamental about the astrophysics of black hole growth (which is quite possible), or the first supermassive black holes actually formed in a much more earlier, more primitive, era. But for that to happen, the physics that created those first potential black holes must be … strange.
Twin of gravity
How strange? Well, so strange that it goes beyond the current limits of known physics. Fortunately, theoretical physicists are working hard, every day, to go far, far from the current frontiers of known physics. One example of this is called Supersymmetry, Which is an attempt by physicists to explain some of the inner workings of the particle world and to predict the existence of completely new particles.
In supersymmetry, every particle of Standard form (The name given to our best current understanding of the subatomic field) is associated with a partner. The reason for this coupling is a fundamental symmetry found deep in mathematics that may describe nature. But this symmetry is broken (by the machinations of some complex mechanism), so the particles partnered in supersymmetry do not simply float around in the world or make large entrances to particle colliders.
Instead, due to the broken symmetry, the partner particles are forced into having incredible masses, so high that they only appear in the interactions of the highest energy in the universe. So far, we haven’t found any evidence of supersymmetry partner particles in the collider experiments, but we’re still looking.
As the research continues, theorists spend their time researching the various paradigms and possibilities of supersymmetry. And in one copy, there is a particle known as Gravitino. Gravitino is the super-symmetry partner particle of graviton, which is itself the hypothetical particle that carries the force of gravity.
If you start to worry that this all sounds too hypothetical, that’s okay. The existence of graffitino is very speculative and does not depend on any evidence that exists. However, as we will soon see, some gravitino models impart some very special properties that make them ripe for forming black holes.
If you want to create some black holes in the early universe, you have to pass some challenges. Long before the first stars and galaxies appeared, our universe was dominated by radiation: high-energy light engulfed the universe, lynching around matter and generally telling everyone what to do.
If you want to create some random black holes in that era dominated by radiation, you need to do so quickly, because that era in our universe was very chaotic. Once black holes are formed, you have to keep them alive. Black holes evaporate through a quantum mechanical process known as Hawking radiation, And small black holes (for example, those formed through a strange subatomic process) can quickly disappear before they have a chance for greatness, let alone supermass.
Enter gravitino, or at least one copy of that hypothetical particle. according to Research article recently published in the preprint journal arXivThe early, high-energy universe would have had the right conditions to fill the universe with gravitinus. Due to their unique properties (and most notably, their ability to be rapidly attracted to each other by gravity), they can quickly form microscopic black holes.
With the passage of time in the early universe, black holes could grow large enough to feed on the surrounding radiation before succumbing to Hawking’s evaporation. Once removed the radiation, it could be large enough to continue collecting material through normal astrophysical processes, providing the seeds for the first giant black holes.
It’s a long shot of an idea, but when it comes to the early universe, it’s our best.
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