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Source of dust around black holes eyed

Source of dust around black holes eyed
This is a 'light echo' of dust illuminated by a nearby star as it became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun in January 2002. Collisions of smaller objects such as asteroids or minor planets near a supermassive black hole could release a lot of dust, astronomers say. Credit: NASA/ESA

LEICESTER, England, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Fat doughnut-shaped clouds of dust obscuring some black holes could be from high-speed crashes between planets and asteroids, British astronomers say.

About half of the supermassive black holes that reside in the central parts of most galaxies are hidden from view by mysterious clouds of dust, the origin of which is not completely understood, astronomers say.

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Researchers at the University of Leicester have developed a theory of the dust's origin they say is inspired by our solar system, where so-called zodiacal dust is the result of collisions between solid bodies such as asteroids and comets.

Leicester astronomers Sergei Nayakshin and his colleagues propose the central regions of galaxies contain not only black holes and stars but also planets and asteroids that could be the source of these cosmic dust clouds.

"We suspect that the supermassive black hole in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, expelled most of the gas that would otherwise turn into more stars and planets," he says. "Understanding the origin of the dust in the inner regions of galaxies would take us one step closer to solving the mystery of the supermassive black holes."

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