The perplexing question of how supermassive black holes form at the centre of galaxies has been answered by an Irish physicist and his colleagues.
Cosmologist Dr John Regan from Dublin City University has for the first time worked out the formula underpinning the creation of the astronomical phenomena.
The discovery will help further our understanding of how the Universe formed
Black holes form when massive stars collapse, creating such an intense gravitational force that nothing, including light, can escape the pull.
But despite many theories, a definitive answer to the question of how supermassive black holes form at the centre of many galaxies, including our own, has evaded scientists for decades.
In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, Dr John Regan and colleagues in the US, UK and Finland set out computations explaining how it happens.
The School of Mathematical Sciences researcher and his collaborators argue that radiation from nearby galaxies act as a catalyst in the creation of seeds for supermassive black holes.
Specifically, the researchers found that radiation seeping from nearby vast masses of gas from which galaxies are thought to develop kick starts the formation of early supermassive black holes.
The radiation from one of these so-called proto-galaxies can disable the ability of another close to it to create stars, the study found.
The effect does not, however, prevent the sterilised proto-galaxy from building in mass, which continues until a tipping point is reached beyond which enormous black hole formation becomes a certainty.
The body then sucks in anything that comes close to it, including stars and other black holes, growing in size by up to a million times until a quasar is formed that is visible across the Universe.