Most people were too busy with the goings-on at CES this week to know of another large gathering, this one in the astronomic field, taking place at the same time. The 227th American Astronomical Society meeting brought along both speculation and facts, but mostly served to keep the public informed of new astronomic discoveries, like how galaxies are affected by expelling black holes.
- The study in question involves two galaxies in the Messier 51 system
- Researchers observed two galaxies colliding – NGC 5194 and NGC 5195
- Our own galaxy is going to collide with Andromeda in the next 4 billion years
- The black hole’s behavior is very helpful in learning more about the formation of galaxies
- The paper is going to be published in the Astrophysical Journal
The team of researchers behind the paper was led by Eric Schlegel, a Vaughn Family Endowed Professor in Physics based at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and they investigated the behavior of a supermassive black hole in a galaxy that collided with another.
Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is orbiting Earth, the team managed to look at the supermassive black hole in the NGC 5195 galaxy, as it merged with its much larger companion galaxy, NGC 5194.
Absorbing a very large quantity of matter, the black hole is creating a huge storm of sorts, blasting very high-energy and extremely powerful bursts of hot gas and particles through the galaxy.
This makes it the closest black hole to Earth – at 26 million light years away – to be in the throes of such a violent outburst.
Observing two enormous X-ray emission arcs coming from the black hole, the researchers realized that the large amounts of matter expelled into the two galaxies will have a big impact on the galactic landscape.
Not only did the X-ray emitting gas displace the hydrogen gas from the center of the galaxy, but the gas around the arcs suggests that the outer arc has gathered enough matter to start the process of developing new stars.
Feedback in astrophysics refers to the ability of a black hole to affect the galaxy around it in both destructive and constructive ways – by consuming part of it, it enables the formation of new stars.
This discovery is very important, as it speaks volumes about the formation of new stars and galaxies, and it also gives a few hints at what might happen when our own galaxy goes through the process of colliding with another one.
Image source: Wikimedia