Supermassive black holes feed on cosmic jellyfish

August 16, 2017, ESO
Observations of 'Jellyfish galaxies' with ESO's Very Large Telescope have revealed a previously unknown way to fuel supermassive black holes. It seems the mechanism that produces the tentacles of gas and newborn stars that give these galaxies their nickname also makes it possible for the gas to reach the central regions of the galaxies, feeding the black hole that lurks in each of them and causing it to shine brilliantly.This picture of one of the galaxies, nicknamed JO204, from the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile, shows clearly how material is streaming out of the galaxy in long tendrils to the lower-left. Red shows the glow from ionised hydrogen gas and the whiter regions are where most of the stars in the galaxy are located. Some more distant galaxies are also visible. Credit: ESO/GASP collaboration

An Italian-led team of astronomers used the MUSE (Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile to study how gas can be stripped from galaxies. They focused on extreme examples of jellyfish galaxies in nearby galaxy clusters, named after the remarkable long "tentacles" of material that extend for tens of thousands of light-years beyond their galactic discs.

The tentacles of jellyfish galaxies are produced in galaxy clusters by a process called ram pressure stripping. Their causes galaxies to fall at high speed into , where they encounter a hot, dense gas which acts like a powerful wind, forcing tails of gas out of the galaxy's disc and triggering starbursts within it.

Six out of the seven jellyfish galaxies in the study were found to host a at the centre, feeding on the surrounding gas. This fraction is unexpectedly high—among galaxies in general the fraction is less than one in ten.

"This strong link between ram pressure stripping and active black holes was not predicted and has never been reported before," said team leader Bianca Poggianti from the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padova in Italy. "It seems that the central black hole is being fed because some of the gas, rather than being removed, reaches the galaxy centre."

A long-standing question is why only a small fraction of supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies are active. Supermassive black holes are present in almost all galaxies, so why are only a few accreting matter and shining brightly? These results reveal a previously unknown mechanism by which the black holes can be fed.

This video shows a 3D visualisation of the Jellyfish galaxy JO194. The three axes are: X and Y on the sky and Z the velocity along the line of sight. The red corresponds to Hydrogen emission, blue shows Nitrogen emission and green shows Oxygen emission. The white component shows the stars in the galaxy. The Hydrogen gas, which is an indicator of ongoing star formation, can be seen being drawn into tails by the ram-pressure and is significantly stripped away from the stars. The Oxygen traces intense shocks and reveals the bright AGN in the centre of the disk. Credit: Callum Bellhouse and the GASP collaboration

Yara Jaffe, an ESO fellow who contributed to the paper explains the significance: "These MUSE observations suggest a novel mechanism for gas to be funnelled towards the black hole's neighbourhood. This result is important because it provides a new piece in the puzzle of the poorly understood connections between supermassive black holes and their ."

The current observations are part of a much more extensive study of many more galaxies that is currently in progress.

"This survey, when completed, will reveal how many, and which, gas-rich galaxies entering clusters go through a period of increased activity at their cores," concludes Poggianti. "A long-standing puzzle in astronomy has been to understand how galaxies form and change in our expanding and evolving Universe. Jellyfish galaxies are a key to understanding galaxy evolution as they are caught in the middle of a dramatic transformation."

This video shows a 3D visualisation of the Hydrogen alpha gas in the Jellyfish galaxy JO201, reconstructed from the MUSE data. The gas can be seen being stripped by the ram pressure into tails which stretch out from the disk of the galaxy and from its trailing blobs, not only along the plane of the sky, but also along the line of sight (in the velocity axis, which corresponds to the side view). Credit: Callum Bellhouse and the GASP collaboration

Explore further: Merging galaxies have enshrouded black holes

More information: Bianca M. Poggianti et al. Ram-pressure feeding of supermassive black holes, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature23462

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1 / 5 (2) Aug 16, 2017
Baffled as to why the repeated reference to 'feeding' as astronomical data clearly shows as far back as the universe can be discovered, that 'black holes' are the same size as they are now. That means that the 'feeding' is actually a transformation of mass to matter does it not?
1 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2017
Yes. There IS no pulling force, no curving Space!!!

Just eternal pushing force which recycling itself.
Aug 16, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 16, 2017
[From above article:] "...named after the remarkable long "tentacles" of material that extend for tens of thousands of light-years beyond their galactic discs"
The plasma universe proponents would be happy with this observation..
Yes; imagine those streams of positively charged ionized hydrogen causing all sorts of cross/counter-currents of Electrons emitting synchrotron radiation as they swirl around the galactic 'mag-fields' patterns/dynamics thus created!

On a related note: in another relevant thread...

...I pointed out that 'certain posters' might owe an apology to cantdrive et al for the insulting/ignorant 'counter-arguments' the latter employed while trolling/attacking cantdrive85 et al. I wonder if the indicated apologies will ever be forthcoming from those 'certain posters'. Time will tell, hey Dingbone? Cheers. :)
2 / 5 (4) Aug 16, 2017
ERRATA for previous post:

The following passage should have read:

...I pointed out that 'certain posters' might owe an apology to cantdrive et al for the insulting/ignorant 'counter-arguments' the FORMER employed...

Apologies for any inconvenience caused. Thanks. :)
2 / 5 (8) Aug 16, 2017
Supermassive black holes are present in almost all galaxies, so why are only a few accreting matter and shining brightly?

Because the supermassive cores are actually growing naturally from within, occasionally reaching a state of instability, and then erupting to seed the galaxy from within rather than from without, as the merger maniac fanatics contend. So the gas is generally ejected periodically, rather than continuously, forming the ejected tentacles observed here. Some might contain an ejected cluster with an intermediate core star contained therein, and eventually grow from within into a galaxy itself. This is how some galactic clusters are formed.

All this talk of the black hole feeding on the surrounding gas tentacles is simply wishful thinking from the committed merger maniacs. They cannot get published if they postulate anything different! So the mania will continue unabated. Don't be a fooled. Think!
1 / 5 (6) Aug 16, 2017
"This is how the typical jellyfish galaxy looks like - but is the interstellar gas really sucked to the galaxy center there - or just vice versa?"

If you consider the exact opposite of much of what mainstream science tells us, you will probably be much closer to the truth. The flow in this case IS outward, 'black holes' create matter, not eat it, and the objects in the arms are not stars but newly formed planetary bodies, created as condensed multi-layer spherical Coulomb crystals within the flux tubes.

Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2017
If you consider the exact opposite of much of what mainstream science tells us, you will probably be much closer to the truth
and if you could prove this you would not only be published and holding a Nobel, you would be the hero of the eu cult
'black holes' create matter, not eat it
given your unfamiliarity with science, this kind of comment that is directly contradictory to known science and observation, should be followed by a reference or link to a reputable peer reviewed journal

as it is not, we can then state with authority that your comment is your belief, not science
as such, it can be summarily dismissed because you can't produce evidence to establish the veracity of the claim

perhaps you should consider staying away from religious sites and using google scholar more
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2017
"reputable peer reviewed journal"

No such thing.
4.4 / 5 (8) Aug 17, 2017

"reputable peer reviewed journal"

No such thing.

Sooo..knee-jerk analysis by undeducated internet troll is where you get your reliable science?


Da Schneib
4 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2017
People who can't pass peer review always whine about it. The point that gets lost about peer review when discussing its problems is that it's like democracy: it's the worst form of scientific review other than all those others that have been tried from time to time.

The point is to try to keep the worst BS out. Peer review isn't perfect; it's only the best we can get.
2.6 / 5 (10) Aug 17, 2017

@Captain Stumpy:
...reputable peer reviewed journal
Eg, those "reputable peer reviewed journals" which for decades 'passed' Big Bang/Inflation/Expansion/Dark Energy/Dark'exotic'Matter etc unreal mathematical/pseudoscience/metaphysics 'objects', 'interpretations and 'models' despite no tenable objective scientific support at all, as Penrose/Steinhardt finally admitted.

knee-jerk analysis by undeducated internet troll
This perfectly describes what you/bot-voting CS-gang of hypocritical trolling ignoramuses have been doing.

@Da Schneib:
it's [Peer Review] like democracy...The point is to try to keep the worst BS out. Peer review isn't perfect; it's only the best we can get.
The current 'peer review' process/system has failed big time re keeping out "the worst BS", so it's far from "the best we can get"; and NO, science/peer review should NOT BE "like democracy"!

Remove 'rose colored glasses' and end your 'denial', guys. :)

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