Supermassive black holes are so strong they can kill baby stars

Image: European Space Agency

Researchers have observed winds blowing from a black hole which are capable of gusting star-forming gas out of a galaxy.

The study reinforces the theory that star formations in galaxies can be controlled by black holes.

The findings, reported in the journal Nature, may help us to learn more about galaxy evolution.

Astronomers used the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory to capture a complete view of the process.

Found at the hearts of most galaxies, supermassive black holes are extremely dense and compact objects with masses between millions and billions of times that of our Sun.

Many are relatively passive but some are devouring their surroundings with a great appetite.

These active black holes not only feed on nearby gas but also expel some of it as powerful winds and jets.

Astronomers have long suspected these outflows to be responsible for draining galaxies of their interstellar gas, in particular the gas molecules from which stars are born.

This could eventually affect a galaxy’s star-forming activity, slowing it down or possibly quenching it entirely.

“This is the first time that we have seen a supermassive black hole in action, blowing away the galaxy’s reservoir of star-making gas,” says Francesco Tombesi from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland who led the research.

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