A new theory claims dark energy originates inside black holes

A team of scientists suggests black holes may be responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Chris Young
An illustration of a black hole
An illustration of a black hole

Paul Jansen/iStock 

Black holes are cosmic giants that pull in and obliterate nearby objects. However, a group of scientists has just found the first observational evidence that black holes may also be driving the expansion of the universe thanks to dark energy cores inside the colossal objects.

The new claim comes from an international group of scientists who compared the growth rates of numerous black holes and found that the expansion observed near the massive objects could be explained by each bearing cores of the mysterious force known as dark energy.

A new theory claims to have found the origin of dark energy

Very little is known about dark energy, and its existence is theorized due to its gravitational effect on objects throughout the cosmos rather than any direct observations.

It was first proposed in the 1990s to explain the discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Scientists have long believed that dark energy is scattered throughout the universe in some form or another.

Now, though, the team of international astronomers has proposed that dark energy is actually found at the heart of most galaxies within their central black holes. The team comprises 17 researchers from nine different countries, led by the University of Hawai'i and including Imperial College London and STFC RAL Space physicists. They published their findings in two papers in The Astrophysical Journal and The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"This is a really surprising result," study co-author Dr. Dave Clements, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, explained in a press statement. "We started off looking at how black holes grow over time and may have found the answer to one of the biggest problems in cosmology."

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Study co-author Dr. Chris Pearson, from STFC RAL Space, added, "If the theory holds, then this is going to revolutionize the whole of cosmology, because at last we've got a solution for the origin of dark energy that's been perplexing cosmologists and theoretical physicists for more than 20 years."

Black hole data spanning nine billion years

The researchers came to their conclusion after studying data spanning nine billion years of black hole evolution. They compared black holes in young galaxies with black holes in giant, dormant galaxies where new stars are no longer born.

In younger galaxies, black holes grow by swallowing nearby stars and other relatively new cosmic objects. However, little is left for black holes to ingest in older galaxies.

In their data, the scientists found that black holes in older, dormant galaxies were seven to 20 times more massive than predicted. This, they wrote, suggests that another process might exist that accounts for this unexpected growth.

The researchers theorized that this growth is caused by "cosmological coupling", meaning the evolution of black holes is tied to the expansion of the universe. They believe their investigation unearthed the first observational evidence of this phenomenon.

As a report by The Guardian points out, the new theory has some way to go before earning acceptance across the scientific community. For example, the researchers provide no explanation for how black holes could simultaneously be sucking in all objects in their vicinity while propelling the universe outward. Still, the team of international scientists has provided a fresh new theory that may — or may not — finally provide answers regarding mysterious dark energy, which accounts for 70 percent of the universe.

Source: Press statement

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