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Galaxies like this one, M104, are thought to house supermassive black holes at their centers. Photo: NASA/STScI/AURA

No matter the size of a black hole, they all appear to feed the same way, according to a new study.

Why it matters: Black holes are some of the most extreme objects found in our universe. By studying the way they grow, scientists should be able to piece together more about how they work.

What they found: The study in the Astrophysical Journal suggests all black holes go through a similar cycle when feeding whether they are about 10 times the mass of our Sun or a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy.

  • Scientists know that when relatively small black holes get a large helping of gas or dust, they move into a phase where the object feeds from a disc surrounding the black hole — called an accretion disk.
  • As the disc collapses, the area around the black hole can glow brightly in X-ray, and that eventually gives way to the object becoming quiet again. This all happens over the course of a few weeks to months.
  • Researchers thought this process would take too long for them to watch the whole thing play out with a supermassive black hole, but the new study found feeding can speed up if the black hole gets a large meal all at once, like when it shreds a star.

How they did it: The researchers behind the new study watched as a supermassive black hole 860 million light-years away gobbled up a star in 2018, giving them a firsthand view of how these huge black holes eat.

The bottom line: “When you throw a ball of gas at them, they all seem to do more or less the same thing," study author Dheeraj Pasham, of MIT, said in a statement. "They’re the same beast in terms of their accretion."

  • "We’ve demonstrated that if you’ve seen one black hole, you’ve seen them all, in a sense."

Go deeper

Updated 51 mins ago - World

North and South Korea restart hotline and pledge to improve ties

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2018. Photo: Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool/Getty Images

North and South Korea's leaders have pledged to improve relations and resume previously suspended communication channels between the two countries.

Why it matters: The resumption of the hotline on Tuesday comes despite stalled negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang on the denuclearization of North Korea, which broke down after a second summit between then-President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a deal in 2019.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Teen swimmer Lydia Jacoby wins 1st U.S. women's Olympic gold in Tokyo

Lydia Jacoby of Team USA wins gold in the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Games. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Team USA's 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby has won the Olympic gold medal in the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Games, completing the race with a time of 1:04.95.

Of note: The Alaskan beat defending Olympic champion and fellow American Lilly King, who won bronze. Tatjana Shoenmaker from South Africa took home the silver medal.

4 hours ago - Health

Scoop: Pelosi’s new COVID plans

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enters the Rose Garden on Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to extend proxy voting through the fall — and potentially until the end of the year — Democratic lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has alarmed both members and staffers anxious about interacting with the unvaccinated. Pelosi’s anticipated move — continuing an emergency COVID-19 measure enacted last year so lawmakers could vote remotely — is aimed at allaying those concerns.