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Are Black Holes the Source of Dark Energy?

An artist's illustration of a supermassive Black Hole. Depositphotos.

Astronomers may have obtained observational evidence that supports the theory that Black Holes are the source of Dark Energy.

Two of the universe’s greatest mysteries are Black Holes and Dark Matter. A few years ago, we astronomers made history when they revealed they had “photographed” a Black Hole located in a distant galaxy in space. But what scientists photographed was the event horizon of a black hole, not the black hole itself, since these cosmic monsters have such a powerful gravitational pull that nothing, not even light, can escape. The other mystery, dark matter, has been theorized but never directly observed. Now, astronomers believe that Black Holes could help explain the mysterious matter that makes up most of the known universe and is referred to by experts as Dark Energy.

Dark Energy and the expansion of the universe

More than a hundred years ago, in the 1920s, Astronomer Edwin Hubble found that our universe is expanding by demonstrating that most galaxies in outer space are moving away from the Milky. Furthermore, he saw that the farther these galaxies are, the faster they recede. Eventually, this mathematical explanation became known as the Hubble Constant. When astronomers finally understood that the cosmos was indeed expanding and doing so at an accelerated rate, they theorized that there must be a kind of force that pushes things further and further, overcoming gravity, which should technically slow things down. This enigmatic force became known as Dark Energy. The best way to explain dark Energy would be to refer to it as a kind of “counterpart” to gravity, a sort of anti-gravity force.

Dark Energy, point of origin?

A team of 17 international researchers led by the University of Hawaii is believed to have discovered the first evidence for the point of origin of Dark Energy, and it comes from a very unexpected source, black holes. Based on what we know about them, Black Holes gain mass in two distinct ways. One is by accumulating gas and merging with other black holes in massive cosmic mergers. Researchers studied nine billion years of black hole evolution in quiescent giant elliptical galaxies. The researchers found that the oldest black holes are much larger than they should be based on those two growth methods. That means there must be another way these black holes gain mass. The research paper, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggests that the answer lies in dark Energy, in the form of vacuum energy, “a type of energy embedded in space-time itself… [that] pushes the universe further, accelerating the expansion”.

Still a theory, but an interesting one

If this curious theory holds up, it has the potential to revolutionize and rewrite everything we knew —  or thought we knew — about cosmology. Moreover, if the theory is proven, it would finally provide a solution for the elusive origin of dark Energy, a subject of debate that has puzzled astronomers for more than two decades. However, the idea that black holes could be the origin of black holes isn’t something new. In fact, it is part of the general theory of relativity proposed by Albert Einstein. Nonetheless, this was the first time that astronomers could gather observational evidence to support the theory. Having that said, it is noteworthy that much more work still needs to be done to test and confirm the idea. Nevertheless, this could be the first step in solving the mystery behind dark Energy.

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