A team of researchers has presented a study at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Fla., detailing the influence of black holes on galactic climate among other effects - the UTSA website reveals.
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The research team has submitted their findings to The Astrophysical Journal for publication.
Led by Eric Schlegel, Vaughn Family Endowed Professor in Physics at The University of Texas in San Antonio (UTSA), the team found that a massive black hole that is 26 million light years away from Earth is generating a subtle blast on galaxies close to it.
The team relied on NASA’s Earth-orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory to discover the influence of the massive black hole on the Messier 51 group of galaxies. The group has a spiral galaxy known as the NGC 5194 which collides with the NGC 5195, a tinier companion galaxy.
“Just as powerful storms here on Earth impact their environments, so too do the ones we see out in space,” Schlegel said. “This black hole is blasting hot gas and particles into its surroundings that must play an important role in the evolution of the galaxy.”
Schlegel’s team is made up of Laura Vega, a Fisk University graduate and UTSA alumna for 2014 among other notable researchers. Vega is now a graduate student at Fisk-Vanderbilt University physics program.
Co-author Christine Jones, a astrophysicist and lecturer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics noted that the X-ray emission arcs observed around the core of NGC 5195 must have been remnants of two large gusts created when the black hole emitted substances outside of the galaxy. “We think this activity has had a big effect on the galactic landscape.”
A thin strip of hydrogen gas emission was observed outside of the arc, and researchers believe this means an X-ray emitting gas removed the hydrogen gas from the middle of the galaxy. An analysis of the gas surrounding the arc indicates that its outer rim has gathered sufficient substances to produce the formation of new stars.
“We think that feedback keeps galaxies from becoming too large,” said co-author Marie Machacek, astrophysicist at CfA, where ‘feedback’ indicates the means the influence of black hole on its host galaxy. “But at the same time, it can be responsible for how some stars form, showing that black holes can be creative, not just destructive.”
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The scientists also think the outbursts of the black hole should have been caused by how NGC 5195 interacts with NGC 5194 – a phenomenon which makes gas to be pushed back to the black hole. According to Schlegel, the actions observed with the black home may be indicative of events that happened when the universe was younger, underscoring the importance of the team’s findings.