According to recent observations, the furiously strong winds from supermassive black holes located at the center of galaxies are so strong that they can actually reshape star formation. These black holes are the source of high-power winds and radiation which carries as much energy throughout the galaxy than a trillion suns would produce. In effect, these gusts are strong enough to not only stunt the formation of stars but to also affect the evolution of the galaxy they reside in.
A new study published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science shows that the speeds, sizes and shapes of such winds stemming from supermassive black holes have been calculated in order to understand the precise manner in which such forces impact galaxies.
Called quasar winds, these extremely dense and powerful winds effectively drain out a galaxy’s supply of gas and as a result, leaves the galaxy devoid of its primordial star formation fuel, Emanuelle Nardini, study lead author explains.
The study was conducted by a team of astronomers who used two telescopes: the Nustar and the XMM-Newton (the former run by NASA and the latter run by the European Space Agency). By directing the telescopes towards a supermassive black hole believed to have the mass of a billion suns, the team attempted to investigate how such large black holes regulate the growth and star formation in their respective galaxies.
“We know that black holes in the centre of galaxies can feed on matter, and this process can produce winds.”
Prof. Fiona Harrison, Nustar lead investigator, said.
Both telescopes were programmed to record light originating from this distant galaxy (at the center of which a supermassive black hole named PDS 456 lies) at different wavelengths. The XMM-Newton telescope had already picked up on light originating here by looking at how the iron atoms carried by the massive winds block X-rays in particular ways. Moreover, by tracking the distribution of these iron atoms, scientists observed that these winds blew out of the black hole in a spherical fashion and not in a beam. As a result of studying these winds blowing from PDS 456, scientists were able to calculate the exact speed that these winds travel at: 1/3 of the speed of light.
In effect, the black hole at the center of a galaxy works as the regulating factor of the system: while the galaxy is continuously expanding, the black hole actively impedes it’s galaxy’s growth and deprives possible new stars from the fuel they require to develop.
“For an astronomer, studying PDS-456 is like a paleontologist being given a living dinosaur today,”
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