How One Black Hole Triggered Thousands of Star Formations Across Four Galaxies

Monday, 02 December 2019 - 10:55AM
Black Holes
Monday, 02 December 2019 - 10:55AM
How One Black Hole Triggered Thousands of Star Formations Across Four Galaxies
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Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble).
A black hole has been reaching across galaxies to trigger star formation in a phenomenon unlike anything astronomers have ever seen, according to reports from Space.Com. "This is the first time we've seen a single black hole boost star birth in more than one galaxy at a time," said Roberto Gilli, the lead author of the study, in an official Chandra X-Ray Observatory statement.


Black holes are vortices of supremely dense matter that exert a gravitational force so strong that not even light can escape. The majority of black holes that we know of form in the aftermath of a supernova – a giant star about three times the mass of our Sun exploding and then collapsing in on itself. There could be as many as 10 million to 1 billion black holes just in our Milky Way galaxy.


The supermassive black hole in question is located 9.9 billion light-years away amidst a cluster of galaxies. This black hole has a radio wave "jet" surrounded by a cloud of superheated gas and an overlay of X-ray emissions. Astronomers believe that the X-ray emissions are caused by the cloud of hot gas interacting with the jet's radio waves.


This is where the galaxy cluster comes into play: according to the theory, as that hot bubble of gas expanded, it filled four nearby galaxies with a shockwave that rapidly compressed the cooler gas and caused stars to form. All four of these galaxies are located at roughly the same distance from the epicenter (400,000 light-years away) with star-forming rates that are two to five times faster than they should be.


Gilli added, "It's amazing to think one galaxy's black hole can have a say in what happens in other galaxies millions of trillions of miles away."


This theory is pending official confirmation but, if the matter is already being discussed in official statements, researchers must be confident in what their results indicate.


Or, perhaps, this is a harbinger of greater breakthroughs to come.


A paper was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics and can be found online at Cornell University's arXiv.
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