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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

Making the outdoors safe for people of color

Julius Crowe Hampton, an Outdoor Afro leader, kayaks in Marina Bay Yacht Harbor in Richmond, Calif. Photo: Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Outdoor enthusiasts want people of color to embrace activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and birding — and feel safe while enjoying it all.

Why it matters: A national reckoning has drawn attention to the discrimination some people of color face during a run in the mountains or a walk on a trail. The outdoors can be deadly due to bigotry, not just wildlife, lurking in the woods.

42 mins ago - World

Putin is challenging Ukraine's "right to exist," Blinken says

Blinken (L) speaks in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: Kay Nietfeld - Pool/Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken put the stakes of a Russian invasion of Ukraine in stark terms on Thursday, saying Vladimir Putin's threat is a direct challenge to Ukraine's "right to exist" as an independent country and a democracy.

What he's saying: “There’s been a lot of speculation about President Putin’s true intentions, but we don’t actually have to guess. He’s told us, repeatedly. He’s laying the groundwork for an invasion because he doesn’t believe Ukraine is a sovereign nation," Blinken said during a speech in Berlin.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Jared Kushner wants to Trump-proof his private equity future

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Jared Kushner appears to have convinced the private equity market that he'll stick with his new firm, called Affinity Partners, even if his father-in-law returns to the White House.

The big picture: Private equity is littered with former presidential advisers and cabinet officials, and Trump's is proving to be no different.