Black Holes Banish Matter Into Cosmic Voids

The universe on its largest scale is dominated by unseen matter in cosmic voids, and all the matter we know of is concentrated into filaments forming a giant universal web.

According to scientists, the unseen matter in the cosmic voids might actually make up about 20% of the “normal” matter in the universe, making all galaxies and everything in them only about 1/500th the volume of the entire universe. The findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Scientists simulated a chunk of large-scale universe with a width and height of 350 million light years, and the thickness of 300,000 light years. They then measured the distribution of mass and volume. Image credit: M. Haider

Currently, it’s understood that “normal matter” consists of about 5% of the total matter in the universe (the matter that makes up stars, planets, galaxies and us), the rest being about 27% dark matter and 68% dark energy.

The team used data from the Illustris project, a supercomputer simulation of the evolution and formation of galaxies, to measure the overall mass and volume of structures in the large-scale universe. Amazingly, their findings suggest that a large portion of normal matter – about 20% – is being transported to the cosmic voids by supermassive black holes.

Dr. Markus Haider of the Institute of Astro and Particle Physics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria explains: “This simulation, one of the most sophisticated ever run, suggests that the black holes at the centre of every galaxy are helping to send matter into the loneliest places in the universe. What we want to do now is refine our model, and confirm these initial findings.”

Subsequently, we know that black holes have a history of large outflows of matter which can stretch for hundreds of thousands of light years from their location. These are hypothesized to be the transporting mechanism for the banished matter.

The data also found that about 50% of the total mass of the universe is in the places where galaxies reside, compressed into a volume of 0.2% of the universe. Another 44% is in the filaments, while just 6% is located in the voids, which make up about 80% of the total volume of the entire universe.

The team is currently running new simulations with Illustris to possibly verify their black hole transportation theory. Unfortunately, scientists say there is little hope in ever getting to see the banished material since it would likely be too cool in the void to emit the X-rays that would make it detectable.

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