Astronomers observe black hole producing cold, star-making fuel from hot plasma jets and bubbles

February 14, 2017 by Jennifer Chu
This composite image shows powerful radio jets from the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy in the Phoenix Cluster inflating huge "bubbles" in the hot, ionized gas surrounding the galaxy. The cavities inside the blue region were imaged by NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory. Hugging the outside of these bubbles, ALMA discovered an unexpected trove of cold gas, the fuel for star formation (red). The background image is from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) H.Russell, et al.; NASA/ESA Hubble; NASA/CXC/MIT/M.McDonald et al.; B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

The Phoenix cluster is an enormous accumulation of about 1,000 galaxies, located 5.7 billion light years from Earth. At its center lies a massive galaxy, which appears to be spitting out stars at a rate of about 1,000 per year. Most other galaxies in the universe are far less productive, squeaking out just a few stars each year, and scientists have wondered what has fueled the Phoenix cluster's extreme stellar output.

Now scientists from MIT, the University of Cambridge, and elsewhere may have an answer. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal, the team reports observing jets of hot, 10-million-degree gas blasting out from the central galaxy's black hole and blowing large bubbles out into the surrounding plasma.

These jets normally act to quench star formation by blowing away cold gas—the main fuel that a galaxy consumes to generate stars. However, the researchers found that the hot jets and bubbles emanating from the center of the Phoenix cluster may also have the opposite effect of producing cold gas, that in turn rains back onto the galaxy, fueling further starbursts. This suggests that the black hole has found a way to recycle some of its hot gas as cold, star-making fuel.

"We have thought the role of black hole jets and bubbles was to regulate star formation and to keep cooling from happening," says Michael McDonald, assistant professor of physics in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. "We kind of thought they were one-trick ponies, but now we see they can actually help cooling, and it's not such a cut-and-dried picture."

The new findings help to explain the Phoenix cluster's exceptional star-producing power. They may also provide new insight into how supermassive and their host galaxies mutually grow and evolve.

McDonald's co-authors include lead author Helen Russell, an astronomer at Cambridge University; and others from the University of Waterloo, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the University of Illinois, and elsewhere.

An ALMA image of cold molecular gas at the heart of the Phoenix Cluster. The filaments extending from the center hug enormous radio bubbles created by jets from a supermassive black hole. This discovery sheds light on the complex relationship between a supermassive black hole and its host galaxy. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), H. Russell et al.; B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Hot jets, cold filaments

The team analyzed observations of the Phoenix cluster gathered by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a collection of 66 large radio telescopes spread over the desert of northern Chile. In 2015, the group obtained permission to direct the telescopes at the Phoenix cluster to measure its radio emissions and to detect and map signs of cold gas.

The researchers looked through the data for signals of carbon monoxide, a gas that is present wherever there is cold hydrogen gas. They then converted the carbon monoxide emissions to hydrogen gas, to generate a map of cold gas near the center of the Phoenix cluster. The resulting picture was a puzzling surprise.

"You would expect to see a knot of cold gas at the center, where star formation happens," McDonald says. "But we saw these giant filaments of cold gas that extend 20,000 light years from the central black hole, beyond the central galaxy itself. It's kind of beautiful to see."

This is an artist impression of galaxy at the center of the Phoenix Cluster. Powerful radio jets from the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy are creating giant radio bubbles (blue) in the ionized gas surrounding the galaxy. ALMA has detected cold molecular gas (red) hugging the outside of the bubbles. This material could eventually fall into the galaxy where it could fuel future star birth and feed the supermassive black hole. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

The team had previously used NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory to map the cluster's hot gas. These observations produced a picture in which powerful jets flew out from the black hole at close to the speed of light. Further out, the researchers saw that the jets inflated giant bubbles in the hot gas.

When the team superimposed its picture of the Phoenix cluster's cold gas onto the map of hot gas, they found a "perfect spatial correspondence": The long filaments of frigid, 10-kelvins gas appeared to be draped over the bubbles of hot gas.

"This may be the best picture we have of black holes influencing the cold gas," McDonald says.

Feeding the black hole

What the researchers believe to be happening is that, as jet inflate bubbles of hot, 10-million-degree gas near the black hole, they drag behind them a wake of slightly cooler, 1-million-degree gas. The bubbles eventually detach from the jets and float further out into the galaxy cluster, where each bubble's trail of gas cools, forming long filaments of extremely cold gas that condense and rain back onto the black hole as fuel for .

"It's a very new idea that the and jets can actually influence the distribution of cold gas in any way," McDonald says.

Scientists have estimated that there is enough cold gas near the center of the Phoenix cluster to keep producing stars at a high rate for another 30 to 40 million years. Now that the researchers have identified a new feedback mechanism that may supply the black hole with even more cold gas, the cluster's stellar output may continue for much longer.

"As long as there's cold gas feeding it, the black hole will keep burping out these jets," McDonald says. "But now we've found that these jets are making more food, or cold gas. So you're in this cycle that, in theory, could go on for a very long time."

He suspects the reason the black hole is able to generate fuel for itself might have something to do with its size. If the black hole is relatively small, it may produce that are too weak to completely blast cold gas away from the cluster.

"Right now [the black hole] may be pretty small, and it'd be like putting a civilian in the ring with Mike Tyson," McDonald says. "It's just not up to the task of blowing this far enough away that it would never come back."

The team is hoping to determine the mass of the black hole, as well as identify other, similarly extreme starmakers in the universe.

Explore further: Scientists observe supermassive black hole feeding on cold gas

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RNP
5 / 5 (6) Feb 14, 2017
The open access version of the paper is worth a look and can be found here: https://arxiv.org...0017.pdf
cantdrive85
1.7 / 5 (12) Feb 14, 2017
However, the researchers found that the hot jets and bubbles emanating from the center of the Phoenix cluster may also have the opposite effect of producing cold gas, that in turn rains back onto the galaxy,

Definitive observational support for Alfvén's galactic circuit.
https://www.resea...gnetized
But don't tell the astrophysicists, such empirically derived theories don't belong in the realm of the thought experiments of the pseudoscientists.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (4) Feb 14, 2017
Sounds like - distillation via condensation...
jonesdave
4.5 / 5 (8) Feb 14, 2017
However, the researchers found that the hot jets and bubbles emanating from the center of the Phoenix cluster may also have the opposite effect of producing cold gas, that in turn rains back onto the galaxy,

Definitive observational support for Alfvén's galactic circuit.
https://www.resea...gnetized
But don't tell the astrophysicists, such empirically derived theories don't belong in the realm of the thought experiments of the pseudoscientists.


Lol. Written by Mae-Wan Ho. Difficult to get much further from real science.

Ho has been criticized for embracing pseudoscience


https://en.wikipe...e-Wan_Ho
http://www.dcscie...society/
cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (10) Feb 14, 2017
Always attacking the person, never the science. jonesdumb MO is the ad hominem attack, nothing more.
jonesdave
4.6 / 5 (9) Feb 14, 2017
Always attacking the person, never the science. jonesdumb MO is the ad hominem attack, nothing more.


Read the Wikipedia article. Perhaps you could point out where she did her degree in astronomy/ astrophysics/ physics etc. If you think this is a genuine scientific paper, then you simply do not understand science.
She was a woo merchant in a completely unrelated field, before moving into the realms of EU woo with that particular 'paper'. It has had, rightly, zero impact on the field.
jonesdave
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
Always attacking the person, never the science. jonesdumb MO is the ad hominem attack, nothing more.


Nope. I'm happy to attack both simultaneously, as it happens. Thank you for the opportunity of linking to these posts, where I do precisely that:

http://www.intern...unt=3232

http://www.intern...unt=3288

http://www.intern...unt=3290

:)
gculpex
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 14, 2017
Always attacking the person, never the science. jonesdumb MO is the ad hominem attack, nothing more.


Nope. I'm happy to attack both simultaneously, as it happens. Thank you for the opportunity of linking to these posts, where I do precisely that:

http://www.intern...unt=3232

:)

Any other half-informed websites?
jonesdave
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 14, 2017
Always attacking the person, never the science. jonesdumb MO is the ad hominem attack, nothing more.


Nope. I'm happy to attack both simultaneously, as it happens. Thank you for the opportunity of linking to these posts, where I do precisely that:

http://www.intern...unt=3232

:)

Any other half-informed websites?


Sorry, like to expand on that, or are you just going to keep your ignorance a secret????
Tuxford
1 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
This suggests that the black hole has found a way to recycle some of its hot gas as cold, star-making fuel.

Suggests only to the committed merger maniac. This is simply more confounding evidence for the source of the gas being the core itself, rather than some convoluted recycling mechanism grasped at by the merger maniac. Their careers are built upon this nonsense. So too late to back down now, even when confronted with confounding opposing evidence.

LaViolette, the so-called pseudo-scientist, will prove to be correct with his Continuous Creation model. So what does that make the merger maniac scientist? A pseudo-pseudo-scientist??

Just watch the contortionists continue to twist to defend their fantasy, as the observations against them continue to grow. LoL.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (6) Feb 14, 2017
LaViolette is quite clearly certifiably insane. What does that make his followers? Lol.

http://etheric.co...tte-bio/
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (5) Feb 14, 2017
This article uses the language of familiar phenomena -- like rain, bubbles, and cold and hot gases -- to describe observations which relate to plasmas. Yet, plasmas are not common on Earth.

A plasma can easily overcome the influence of gravity with just 1% ionization, and we need not look beyond the ionosphere to know that. What is familiar about that?

The idea that plasmas can behave electrodynamically, as if gravity is a second-order force, is not new information. So why do science journalists continue to characterize the plasma in these "familiar" terms?

One of the biggest lessons over the last few decades has been that huge amounts of dark matter are required in order to make up the difference between these familiar phenomena and our astronomical observations.

Yet, this article never even mentions dark matter.

The theorists should be using the language of the plasma laboratory to explain these observations.
Chris_Reeve
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
Re: "Sorry, like to expand on that, or are you just going to keep your ignorance a secret????"

The internationalskeptics forum -- formerly called the bad astronomy and universe today forum -- is a place where hypotheses go to die.

The moderators routinely kick people out that they disagree with.

When a thread doesn't go their way, they cut it to pieces until it does.

This point of this forum is to defend textbook theory.

The point is to make laypeople feel stupid for ever even asking the question -- and that is even when the questions asked are completely legitimate and well thought out.

It's the perfect example of what you get when you train physics students to be ideological.

This is where people who are heavily invested in antiquated ideas go to fight the good fight -- which is a never-ending battle to resist new ideas which might overturn older ideas.

We can learn a lot from such sites about academia's hostility to innovation in the sciences.
Chris_Reeve
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
The problem with the internationalskeptics forum is the same exact problem explained by this graduate student ...

http://crypto.jun...gnation/

"Dear EPFL,
I am writing to state that, after four years of hard but enjoyable PhD work at this school, I am planning to quit my thesis in January, just a few months shy of completion ...

[T]he essential motivation stems from my personal conclusion that I've lost faith in today's academia as being something that brings a positive benefit to the world/societies we live in. Rather, I'm starting to think of it as a big money vacuum that takes in grants and spits out nebulous results, fueled by people whose main concerns are not to advance knowledge and to effect positive change, though they may talk of such things, but to build their CVs and to propel/maintain their careers ..."

(cont'd)
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
Here is further commentary on the linked article above which expounds on the galactic circuit proposed by Alfvén.
http://www.i-sis....Grid.php
And as usual, jonesdumb continues with his only capability, the ad hominem attack. Truly pathetic! And still, no comment regarding the science behind Alfvén's models in spite of another successful prediction by Alfvén.
Chris_Reeve
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
(cont'd)

"... (4) Academia: Where Originality Will Hurt You

The good, healthy mentality would naturally be to work on research that we believe is important. Unfortunately, most such research is challenging and difficult to publish, and the current publish-or-perish system makes it difficult to put bread on the table while working on problems that require at least ten years of labor before you can report even the most preliminary results. Worse yet, the results may not be understood, which, in some cases, is tantamount to them being rejected by the academic community. I acknowledge that this is difficult, and ultimately cannot criticize the people who choose not to pursue such "risky" problems ..."

(cont'd)
Chris_Reeve
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
(cont'd)

"... Ideally, the academic system would encourage those people who are already well established and trusted to pursue these challenges, and I'm sure that some already do. However, I cannot help but get the impression that the majority of us are avoiding the real issues and pursuing minor, easy problems that we know can be solved and published. The result is a gigantic literature full of marginal/repetitive contributions. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing if it's a good CV that you're after ..."

(cont'd)
Chris_Reeve
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
(cont'd)

"... (5) Academia: The Black Hole of Bandwagon Research

Indeed, writing lots of papers of questionable value about a given popular topic seems to be a very good way to advance your academic career these days. The advantages are clear: there is no need to convince anyone that the topic is pertinent and you are very likely to be cited more since more people are likely to work on similar things. This will, in turn, raise your impact factor and will help to establish you as a credible researcher, regardless of whether your work is actually good/important or not. It also establishes a sort of stable network, where you pat other (equally opportunistic) researchers on the back while they pat away at yours ..."

(cont'd)
Chris_Reeve
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
(cont'd)

"... Unfortunately, not only does this lead to quantity over quality, but many researchers, having grown dependent on the bandwagon, then need to find ways to keep it alive even when the field begins to stagnate. The results are usually disastrous. Either the researchers begin to think up of creative but completely absurd extensions of their methods to applications for which they are not appropriate, or they attempt to suppress other researchers who propose more original alternatives (usually, they do both). This, in turn, discourages new researchers from pursuing original alternatives and encourages them to join the bandwagon, which, though founded on a good idea, has now stagnated and is maintained by nothing but the pure will of the community that has become dependent on it. It becomes a giant, money-wasting mess."
Whydening Gyre
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 14, 2017
And, now, time for a back-to-topic break from that ever-so-dour, self proclaimed man-of-the-hour - Chris Reeve...
As the article clearly states - The gravitational anomaly (black hole) is providing just enough jet kick to disturb the momentum of surrounding gas but not blow it all away.
It's also pretty common sense to understand that the surrounding gas is just at the right density (prob'ly due to temperature) to react to the jet momentum in an "en masse" ensemble.
Kinetics.
It's a Complex System with variant feedback properties. Gravity, EM, temperature, momentum, direction, chirality etc., all work TOGETHER. Alternatively emergent and dependent on each other at changing moments and scales, to make that system work.
At the end of the day, no ONE property makes it tick any more or better than the others.
jonesdave
4.6 / 5 (9) Feb 14, 2017
The internationalskeptics forum -- ****formerly called the bad astronomy and universe today forum**** -- is a place where hypotheses go to die.


WRONG. Like to try again?
And all very rich anyway, coming from someone whose non-science cult is based on this:
http://www.maveri...turn.htm

jonesdave
4.6 / 5 (9) Feb 14, 2017
And, now, time for a back-to-topic break from that ever-so-dour, self proclaimed man-of-the-hour - Chris Reeve...


Amen to that, Brother! How to disguise scientifically illiterate woo behind a barrage of irrelevant prose!

jonesdave
5 / 5 (8) Feb 14, 2017
Here is further commentary on the linked article above which expounds on the galactic circuit proposed by Alfvén.
http://www.i-sis....Grid.php
And as usual, jonesdumb continues with his only capability, the ad hominem attack. Truly pathetic! And still, no comment regarding the science behind Alfvén's models in spite of another successful prediction by Alfvén.


And here is some further comment on Mae-Wan Ho, and the Institute for Science in Society:
she, and they, are/were total woo merchants. I'd be embarrassed to link to anything they came out with. By definition, if they are backing you, you are a long way from being right and, chances are, have already been proven to be wrong.
Gigel
5 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2017
LaViolette, the so-called pseudo-scientist, will prove to be correct with his Continuous Creation model. So what does that make the merger maniac scientist? A pseudo-pseudo-scientist??

Any precise experimental predictions his model can make and that can be verified? How is he going to prove he is correct?
cantdrive85
Feb 15, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (3) Feb 15, 2017
And here is some further comment on....

But none whatsoever regarding Alfvén's galactic circuit nor the observational support shown in the article.
RNP
5 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2017
@cantdrive85
You say of the article that there are;
[No comments] whatsoever regarding Alfvén's galactic circuit nor the observational support shown in the article.


That is because there IS no observational support for a "galactic circuit" in the galaxy or the article. LOOKS LIKE is NOT observational evidence! We must also consider the LACK of evidence.... lack of evidence for Faraday rotation in background objects, lack of Zeeman splitting in the IGM, no evidence for the "closing" of the circuit. NONE of these things have EVER been observed in ANY galaxy on the scale your theory would imply.

These things have been pointed out to you many times before, so it is also interesting to note that neither you, or any of the advocates of this nonsense, have never even attempted to address these issues. Until you at least try, scientifically, your ideas have less value than methane filled, hot air and your inputs here will amount to nothing more than trolling.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (2) Feb 17, 2017
. lack of evidence for Faraday rotation in background objects

Expound, what background objects? It would seem there is a "universal law" for rotational aspect of galactic systems that Faraday rotation seems to explain.
lack of Zeeman splitting in the IGM

Last I checked, and could be wrong, but Zeeman splitting requires an unchanging e-field. Show me where to look to find such an occurrence and that will lead to your splitting.
evidence for the "closing" of the circuit.

Before you claim something isn't there, there should be some effort to at least look for it. Astrophysicist's views on cosmic plasmas are so skewed they don't even look for that which are ubiquitous in plasmas.

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