The study, led by Sera Markoff of the Astronomical Institute at the University of Amsterdam, used data from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Chandra X-ray Observatory, as well as ground-based telescopes.
The conclusion comes from a large observing campaign of the spiral galaxy M81, which is about 12 million light-years from Earth. In the center of M81 is a black hole that is about 70 million times more massive than the sun and generates energy and radiation as it pulls gas in the central region of the galaxy inward at high speed.
That, Markoff said, supports Einstein's theory that black holes are simple objects and only their masses and spins determine their effect on space-time.
"This confirms that the feeding patterns for black holes of different sizes can be very similar," said Markoff. "We thought this was the case but up until now we haven't been able to nail it."
The research that included Andrew Young of the University of Bristol is to appear in The Astrophysical Journal.