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Collapse of Gas Clouds Give Birth to Massive Black Holes, New Study Suggests

May 25, 2016 09:48 AM EDT

A new study suggests that massive black holes, which can be usually found at center of most galaxies, were already big when they were born.

The study, soon to be published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, shows that these behemoth black holes, about billion of times the mass of sun, were most likely to be formed after the collapse of gigantic gas clouds.

Previously, researchers believed that super massive black holes were formed after the collision of two small black holes. However, this idea suggests that the newly formed black holes need to expand at a faster rate to reach their massive size as observed today.

"There is a lot of controversy over which path these black holes take," study co-author Andrea Ferrara, of Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, said in a statement. "Our work suggests we are converging on one answer, where black holes start big and grow at the normal rate, rather than starting small and growing at a very fast rate."

For the study, researchers analyzed observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA and ESA's Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope. Using these observations combined with computer models, researchers were able to find two separate instances of what appears to be black hole seeds.

"Black hole seeds are extremely hard to find and confirming their detection is very difficult. However, we think our research has uncovered the two best candidates so far," explained Andrea Grazian, a co-author from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy, in a press release.

According to the report from, both candidates for black hole seeds contain about 100,000 solar masses and are believed to be formed less than 1 billion years after the Big Bang. The size and age of the seed suggests that in the early universe, super massive black holes were already large at birth with the collapse of giant gas clouds.

The researchers are still reluctant to confirm their theory regarding the birth of super massive black holes even though both back holes seed candidates in their study matched their prediction. They noted that additional research must be done in order to fully understand and distinguished the two formation theories.

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