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Supermassive black hole

A supermassive black hole (SMBH or sometimes SBH) is the largest type of black hole, containing a mass of the order of hundreds of thousands to billions of times the mass of the Sun (M☉). Black holes are a class of astronomical object that have undergone gravitational collapse, leaving behind spheroidal regions of space from which nothing can escape, not even light. Observational evidence indicates that nearly all large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole, located at the galaxy's center. In the case of the Milky Way, the supermassive black hole corresponds to the location of Sagittarius A* at the Galactic Core. Accretion of interstellar gas onto supermassive black holes is the process responsible for powering quasars and other types of active galactic nuclei. Supermassive black holes have properties that distinguish them from lower-mass classifications. First, the average density of a SMBH (defined as the mass of the black hole divided by the volume within its Schwarzschild radius) can be less than the density of water in the case of some SMBHs. This is because the Schwarzschild radius is directly proportional to its mass. Since the volume of a spherical object (such as the event horizon of a non-rotating black hole) is directly proportional to the cube of the radius, the density of a black hole is inversely proportional to the square of the mass, and thus higher mass black holes have lower average density. In addition, the tidal forces in the vicinity of the event horizon are significantly weaker for supermassive black holes. The tidal force on a body at the event horizon is likewise inversely proportional to the square of the mass: a person on the surface of the Earth and one at the event horizon of a 10 million M☉ black hole experience about the same tidal force between their head and feet. Unlike with stellar mass black holes, one would not experience significant tidal force until very deep into the black hole. Some astronomers have begun labeling black holes of at least 10 billion M☉ as ultramassive black holes. Most of these (such as TON 618) are associated with exceptionally energetic quasars. The story of how supermassive black holes were found began with the investigation by Maarten Schmidt of the radio source 3C 273 in 1963. Initially this was thought to be a star, but the spectrum proved puzzling. It was determined to be hydrogen emission lines that had been red shifted, indicating the object was moving away from the Earth. Hubble's law showed that the object was located several billion light-years away, and thus must be emitting the energy equivalent of hundreds of galaxies. The rate of light variations of the source, dubbed a quasi-stellar object, or quasar, suggested the emitting region had a diameter of one parsec or less. Four such sources had been identified by 1964. In 1963, Fred Hoyle and W. A. Fowler proposed the existence of hydrogen burning supermassive stars (SMS) as an explanation for the compact dimensions and high energy output of quasars. These would have a mass of about 105 – 109 M☉. However, Richard Feynman noted stars above a certain critical mass are dynamically unstable and would collapse into a black hole, at least if they were non-rotating. Fowler then proposed that these supermassive stars would undergo a series of collapse and explosion oscillations, thereby explaining the energy output pattern. Appenzeller and Fricke (1972) built models of this behavior, but found that the resulting star would still undergo collapse, concluding that a non-rotating 0.75×106 M☉ SMS 'cannot escape collapse to a black hole by burning its hydrogen through the CNO cycle'. Edwin E. Salpeter and Yakov B. Zel'dovich made the proposal in 1964 that matter falling onto a massive compact object would explain the properties of quasars. It would require a mass of around 108 M☉ to match the output of these objects. Donald Lynden-Bell noted in 1969 that the infalling gas would form a flat disk that spirals into the central 'Schwarzschild throat'. He noted that the relatively low output of nearby galactic cores implied these were old, inactive quasars. Meanwhile, in 1967, Martin Ryle and Malcolm Longair suggested that nearly all sources of extra-galactic radio emission could be explained by a model in which particles are ejected from galaxies at relativistic velocities; meaning they are moving near the speed of light. Martin Ryle, Malcolm Longair, and Peter Scheuer then proposed in 1973 that the compact central nucleus could be the original energy source for these relativistic jets. Arthur M. Wolfe and Geoffrey Burbidge noted in 1970 that the large velocity dispersion of the stars in the nuclear region of elliptical galaxies could only be explained by a large mass concentration at the nucleus; larger than could be explained by ordinary stars. They showed that the behavior could be explained by a massive black hole with up to 1010 M☉, or a large number of smaller black holes with masses below 103 M☉. Dynamical evidence for a massive dark object was found at the core of the active elliptical galaxy Messier 87 in 1978, initially estimated at 5×109 M☉. Discovery of similar behavior in other galaxies soon followed, including the Andromeda Galaxy in 1984 and the Sombrero Galaxy in 1988. Donald Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees hypothesized in 1971 that the center of the Milky Way galaxy would contain a massive black hole. Sagittarius A* was discovered and named on February 13 and 15, 1974, by astronomers Bruce Balick and Robert Brown using the Green Bank Interferometer of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. They discovered a radio source that emits synchrotron radiation; it was found to be dense and immobile because of its gravitation. This was, therefore, the first indication that a supermassive black hole exists in the center of the Milky Way.

[ "Active galactic nucleus", "Galaxy", "Black hole", "Accretion (meteorology)", "Tidal disruption event", "Quasi-star", "Gamma-ray burst progenitors", "Bondi accretion", "M–sigma relation" ]
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