A team of astronomers recently announced the discovery of a supermassive black hole acting as a giant fountain of molecular gas. A first of its kind as detailed in The Astrophysical Journal.
Do you recycle your glass plastic bottles? This black hole does much the same thing with the material at its disposal. You will find this cosmic ogre about a billion light-years away at the heart of an elliptical galaxy, itself nestled within the cluster of galaxies Abell 2597.
The disk of accretion of molecular gas moves around the black hole, swirling and falling into it. But all the material is not swallowed by the monster. In fact, the dynamics are such that part of all this material is channeled at the poles. Powerful plasma jets then form, moving at a speed close to the speed of light in space over more than 30,000 light-years apart. Part of this gas then falls back into the black hole and feeds the accretion disk, while the escapes and feeds the formation of new stars.
The black holes called “fountains” have long been theorized, but none of these objects had been spotted while being at work. “This is perhaps the first system in which we find clear evidence of a supply of cold molecular gas to the black hole as well as outflows, thrown by the same black hole,” said astronomer Grant Tremblay, of Harvard-Smithsonian center for astrophysics and lead author of the study. The supermassive black hole in the center of this giant galaxy acts like a mechanical pump in a fountain. ”
While this observation is new, the phenomenon is perhaps much more common than thought, suggest the researchers. The scientists now hope to learn more about the life cycle of galaxies by observing the newly discovered black hole.