Nav: Home

Supermassive black holes in 'red geyser' galaxies cause galactic warming

May 25, 2016

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 26, 2016) - An international team of scientists, including the University of Kentucky's Renbin Yan, have uncovered a new class of galaxies, called "red geysers," with supermassive black hole winds so hot and energetic that stars can't form.

Over the last few billion years, a mysterious kind of "galactic warming" has caused many galaxies to change from a lively place where new stars formed every now and then to a quiet place devoid of fresh young stars. But the mechanism that produces this dramatic transformation and keeps galaxies quiet has been one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in galaxy evolution.

"These galaxies have the necessary ingredients for forming new stars but they are not doing it - why?" said Yan, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at UK.

Researchers compare it to having deserts in densely clouded regions; rain and vegetation would be expected, not a barren landscape. Yan and astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) are solving the mystery in a study published today in Nature, announcing the discovery of the red geysers.

Red geysers are old galaxies hosting low-energy supermassive black holes which drive intense interstellar winds. These winds suppress star formation by heating up the ambient gas found in galaxies and preventing it from cooling and condensing into stars.

Yan, also the survey scientist for the survey called Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA), was working with the international team, including lead author Edmond Cheung of the University of Tokyo, to study hundreds of galaxies when they caught a supermassive black hole blasting away at the cold gas in its host galaxy.

"With MaNGA's technological upgrade to the Sloan Foundation Telescope, we can make detailed maps of galaxies ten to a hundred times faster than we could just ten years ago," Yan said.

Yan and his team at MaNGA are mapping the details of 10,000 nearby galaxies - the largest survey yet of its kind - with the goal to understand the galaxies' life cycles. Unlike previous SDSS surveys, they are not only mapping the centers of galaxies where supermassive black holes live, but the outer edges of the galaxies as well, which allowed them to discover the red geyser galaxy.

The winds powered by these supermassive black holes could come and go quickly. It is difficult to catch the moment they show up. "Since MaNGA studies so many galaxies, our snapshots can reveal even the quickest changes to galaxies," Yan said. "And that's how we found Akira."

"Akira," an example of a red geyser galaxy nicknamed by Cheung, has a companion galaxy that called "Tetsuo." Akira is pulling gas away from Tetsuo, which fuels Akira's supermassive black hole. The winds driven by the black hole are the reason that Akira is currently a red geyser galaxy.

Kevin Bundy, MaNGA principal investigator, came up with the name "red geyser" because these wind outbursts reminded him of the sporadic eruptions of a geyser and because failure to form new stars left the galaxy with only red stars.

As with global warming on Earth, galactic warming has long-term consequences for red geyser galaxies - their gas can no longer form new stars.
-end-


University of Kentucky

Related Black Hole Articles:

Scientists make waves with black hole research
Scientists at the University of Nottingham have made a significant leap forward in understanding the workings of one of the mysteries of the universe.
Collapsing star gives birth to a black hole
Astronomers have watched as a massive, dying star was likely reborn as a black hole.
When helium behaves like a black hole
A team of scientists has discovered that a law controlling the bizarre behavior of black holes out in space -- is also true for cold helium atoms that can be studied in laboratories.
Star in closest orbit ever seen around black hole
Astronomers have found evidence of a star that whips around a likely black hole twice an hour.
Tail of stray black hole hiding in the Milky Way
By analyzing the gas motion of an extraordinarily fast-moving cosmic cloud in a corner of the Milky Way, Astronomers found hints of a wandering black hole hidden in the cloud.
Hubble gazes into a black hole of puzzling lightness
The beautiful spiral galaxy visible in the center of the image is known as RX J1140.1+0307, a galaxy in the Virgo constellation imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and it presents an interesting puzzle.
Clandestine black hole may represent new population
Astronomers have combined data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation's Karl G.
When will a neutron star collapse to a black hole?
Astrophysicists from Goethe-University Frankfurt have found a simple formula for the maximum mass of a rotating neutron star and hence answered a question that had been open for decades.
Behemoth black hole found in an unlikely place
Astronomers have uncovered a near-record breaking supermassive black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, in an unlikely place: in the center of a galaxy in a sparsely populated area of the universe.
Behemoth black hole found in an unlikely place
Astronomers have uncovered one of the biggest supermassive black holes, with the mass of 17 billion Suns, in an unlikely place: the centre of a galaxy that lies in a quiet backwater of the Universe.

Related Black Hole Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...