The most detailed observations to date of the material surrounding a gigantic black hole have surprised scientists, who say what they see conflicts with common theories about these powerful objects.
Astronomers used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope Interferometer in Chile to observe the dust around the supermassive black hole at the center of the NGC 3783 galaxy, which lies tens of millions of light-years awayin the constellation Centaurus. The black hole, like many at the centers of galaxies, is gorging on a feast of mass that's fallen toward it from the surrounding area. As the dust falls in, it releases powerful radiation that can be spotted from across the universe.
When observing NGC 3783's center, the researchers expected to find almost all of the dust in the shape of a doughnut orbiting the black hole, but instead found significant amounts of material above and below the doughnut, or torus, shape.
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