Quasar Tsunamis Rip Across Galaxies

by | Mar 23, 2020 | Galaxies, Supermassive Black Holes | 0 comments

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This is an artist’s concept of a distant galaxy with an active quasar at its center. A quasar emits exceptionally large amounts of energy generated by a supermassive black hole fueled by in-falling matter. Using the unique capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered that blistering radiation pressure from the vicinity of the black hole pushes material away from the galaxy’s center at a fraction of the speed of light. The “quasar winds” are propelling hundreds of solar masses of material each year. This affects the entire galaxy as the material snowplows into surrounding gas and dust. CREDITS: NASA, ESA, and J. Olmsted (STScI)

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to study quasar light and then working to model it using computers have published a series of 6 research papers in the Astrophysical Journal Supplements. They describe how this immensely energetic disc can drive the formation of powerful jets that push out through intergalactic space, and also generate a quasar wind inside the galaxy, much like our own star’s solar wind, that pushes material outwards. These jets and winds dump more energy than any other phenomena – even more than Gamma Ray Bursts. This has the effect of pushing back inner material in the galaxy and damping star formation, and pushing back on surrounding extra galactic material slows the growth of the galaxy. This research starts to finally show physics-linkages between galaxy size, black hole size, and dynamics, by following the energy interactions while a galaxy grows. It also hints at limiting factors on how galaxies can grow. This is just a start – but it’s a 6-paper start! We look forward to seeing how this research defines the reasons we see the size of a supermassive black hole correlated to a galaxy’s spheroid’s size. 


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