Washington: Fat doughnut-shaped dust shrouds that obscure about half of supermassive black holes could be the result of high speed crashes between planets and asteroids, according to a new theory from an international team of astronomers.
The scientists, led by Dr. Sergei Nayakshin of the University of Leicester, publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Supermassive black holes reside in the central parts of most galaxies. Observations indicate that about 50 percent of them are hidden from view by mysterious clouds of dust, the origin of which is not completely understood.
The new theory is inspired by our own Solar System, where the so-called zodiacal dust is known to originate from collisions between solid bodies such as asteroids and comets.
The scientists propose that the central regions of galaxies contain not only black holes and stars but also planets and asteroids.
“We suspect that the supermassive black hole in our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, expelled most of the gas that would otherwise turn into more stars and planets,” Nayakshin said.
“Understanding the origin of the dust in the inner regions of galaxies would take us one step closer to solving the mystery of the supermassive black holes,” he added.
The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.