Researchers at the University College London have developed a new theory explaining why some supermassive black holes seem too old for the universe. Current thinking on the formation of supermassive black holes is that they are huge collapsed gas clouds, collapsed stars that absorbed an enormous amount of matter, or aggregations of smaller black holes that grew together over time. 

The problem with all of these hypotheses is that all of the above processes take millions of years to play out, and thatdoesn’t jibe with recent observations, which suggest that these behemoth black holes have been a part of the universal landscape since it’s infancy.

Computer models developed by Dr Curtis Saxton and Professor Kinwah Wu suggests that supermassive black holes could form due to the gravitational interplay between dark matter and gases in galactic clusters. Saxton and Wu have found reason to believe that dark matter collects in super compact zones in these areas. These zones appear to be gravitational powderkegs, and if they’re disturbed, they collapse, taking a good chunk of the surrounding universe with them and leaving behind a supermassive black hole. The process, deemed ‘dark gulping’, would explain the existence of supermassive black holes in the baby universe and eschew the theoretical need for tedious gas accretion or star life cycles implied by the rest of the theories. 

For more details, check out a short interview with Dr. Saxton here.

If some supermassive black holes form through dark gulping, the effect seen by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory might be known as dark burping. Some supermassive black holes release powerful jets of plasma, which in turn send high energy shockwaves of X-ray and gamma radiation through the surrounding galaxy.

Further analysis shows that dangerous radiation isn’t the only thing released when one of these supermassive black holes lets one rip – a recent observation demonstrated that some black holes eject enormous jets of water vapor into the cosmos when they erupt.