Wind from black holes may influence development of surrounding galaxies | Science & Technology

Clouds of gas in a distant galaxy are being pushed faster and faster — at more than 10,000 miles per second — out among neighboring stars by blasts of radiation from the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center. It’s a discovery that helps illuminate the way active black holes can continuously shape their galaxies by spurring on or snuffing out the development of new stars.

A team of researchers led by University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomy professor Catherine Grier and recent graduate Robert Wheatley revealed the accelerating gas using years of data collected from a quasar, a particularly bright and turbulent kind of black hole, billions of light years away in the constellation Boötes. They presented their findings today at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison.

Scientists believe black holes are situated at the center of most galaxies. Quasars are supermassive black holes surrounded by disks of matter being pulled in by the black hole’s enormous gravitational power.

“The material in that disk is always falling into the black hole, and the friction of that pulling and pulling heats up the disk and makes it very, very hot and very, very bright,” says Grier. “These quasars are really luminous, and because there’s a large range of temperatures from the interior to the far parts of the disk, their emission covers almost all of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

The bright light makes quasars nearly as old as the universe (as many as 13 billion light years away) visible, and the broad range of their radiation makes them particularly useful for astronomers to probe the early universe.

Researchers used more than eight years of observations of a quasar called SBS 1408+544, collected by a program carried out by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey now known as the Black Hole Mapper Reverberation Mapping Project. They tracked winds composed of gaseous carbon by spotting light from the quasar that was missing — light that was being absorbed by…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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