Powerful jets blowing material out of galaxy: Process limits growth of central black hole and rate of star formation

Astronomers using a worldwide network of radio telescopes have found strong evidence that a powerful jet of material propelled to nearly light speed by a galaxy's central black hole is blowing massive amounts of gas out of the galaxy. This process, they said, is limiting the growth of the black hole and the rate of star formation in the galaxy, and thus is a key to understanding how galaxies develop.

Astronomers have theorized that many should be more massive and have more stars than is actually the case. Scientists proposed two major mechanisms that would slow or halt the process of mass growth and —violent stellar winds from bursts of star formation and pushback from the powered by the galaxy's central, supermassive black hole.

"With the finely-detailed images provided by an intercontinental combination of radio telescopes, we have been able to see massive clumps of cold gas being pushed away from the galaxy's center by the black-hole-powered jets," said Raffaella Morganti, of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy and the University of Groningen.

The scientists studied a galaxy called 4C12.50, nearly 1.5 billion light-years from Earth. They chose this galaxy because it is at a stage where the black-hole "engine" that produces the jets is just turning on. As the black hole, a concentration of mass so dense that not even light can escape, pulls material toward it, the material forms a swirling disk surrounding the black hole. Processes in the disk tap the tremendous gravitational energy of the black hole to propel material outward from the poles of the disk.

At the ends of both jets, the researchers found clumps of hydrogen gas moving outward from the galaxy at 1,000 kilometers per second. One of the clouds has much as 16,000 times the mass of the Sun, while the other contains 140,000 times the mass of the Sun. The larger cloud, the scientists said, is roughly 160 by 190 light-years in size.

"This is the most definitive evidence yet for an interaction between the swift-moving jet of such a galaxy and a dense interstellar gas cloud," Morganti said. "We believe we are seeing in action the process by which an active, central engine can remove gas —the raw material for star formation—from a young galaxy," she added.

The scientists also said their observations indicate that the jets from the galaxy's core can stretch and deform clouds of interstellar gas to expand their "pushing" effect beyond the narrow width of the jets themselves. In addition, they reported that, at 4C12.50's stage of development, the jets may turn on and off and so periodically repeat the process of removing gas from the galaxy.

In July, another team of scientists, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), announced they had found being blown from a more-nearby galaxy, called NGC 253, by an intense burst of star formation.

"Both processes are thought to be at work, often simultaneously, in young galaxies to regulate the growth of their central as well as the rate at which they can form new stars," Morganti said.

The researchers published their findings in the 6 September issue of the journal Science.

Explore further

4C+29.30: Black hole powered jets plow into galaxy

More information: Radio Jets Clearing the Way Through a Galaxy: Watching Feedback in Action, Science, 2013.
Citation: Powerful jets blowing material out of galaxy: Process limits growth of central black hole and rate of star formation (2013, September 5) retrieved 25 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-09-powerful-jets-material-galaxy-limits.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Sep 05, 2013
'Process limits growth of central black hole and rate of star formation'


Sep 05, 2013
Reading this article one would presume BH's are a forgone fact, sadly they are as real as cosmic unicorns and galactic leprechauns.


Sep 05, 2013
Yep cantdrive, it's not like we've ever observed stars orbiting a dark massive body at the center of our galaxy.

Sep 05, 2013
Maybe you could point me in the direction of an image of this "dark" massive body. Please refrain from "artist impressions" and the like.

Sep 09, 2013
Who's been feeding magic mushrooms to the trolls....?
....Or used them clean up their garden, and paid them in weed(s)....?

PS, just check out this guy's activity page, in case 'it' does make sense to you.

Sep 09, 2013
@cantdrive: the point is that there can't actually be direct images of a black hole. We can't actually see them, because they don't send back any light for our eyes, etc to construct an image. However, as a general principle, if some thing is behaving in a way that it wouldn't when on its own, that tells you that there is something there, despite the fact that you can't see it. If you saw a piece of iron begin to move across a table, apparently on its own, you wouldn't be so gullible to assume that this is its normal behaviour. You would (knowing some key facts & properties about iron) deduce that there is something else present that is influencing the iron to move. You would think about it some more & go looking for what that is. You would also be aware that only something with the properties of a magnet is the cause here, regardless of whether you can actually see it, or not when looking under the table. It is the same principle at work wrt a blacke hole......cont

Sep 09, 2013
cont......You have other effects & objects that are behaving in such an extreme way as they only they could, when within a certain range of an object with such extreme properties. This normally unusual behaviour is what allows the scientists to deduce the presence of the black hole (just like you deduced the presence of the magnet, despite not being able to see it, so no photo of it, just of the moving iron). And only something that possesses that complete set of behaviours ascribed to black holes, will influence 'stuff' in that particular & extreme way. And we CAN take pictures/data of this & extrapolate from that. This is what is called 'indirect' observation & is just as valid as it was for our hidden magnet). But occasionally we do see emissions. Here is one that is a candidate that appears to fit the parameters ascribed to black holes:
Hope that this makes some sense to you,
Cheers, DH66

Sep 09, 2013
This is interesting...Teech2 just rated my comment about trolls and mushrooms a 1.
Zephir, Why would you defend someone like that?? Or is that actually one of YOUR aliases and you just can't help yourself? The language style would certainly fit, and it does appear to be compatible with your descriptions of AWT and how it is different from the mainstream. I hadn't actually noticed either of those two items. Thanks for pointing that out to me, and everyone else :)
Cheers, DH66

Sep 09, 2013
Black holes are imaginary constructs of mathematicians, based on incorrect math. Apparently you missed the papers I linked which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt they are based upon pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more