Large Hubble Survey Confirms Link between Mergers and Supermassive Black Holes with Relativistic Jets
Tidal disruption event
Every galaxy has a black hole at its center. Usually they are quiet, without gas accretions, like the one in our Milky Way. But if a star creeps too close to the black hole, the gravitational tides can rip away the star’s gaseous matter. Like water spinning around a drain, the gas swirls into a disk around the black hole at such speeds that it heats to millions of degrees.
As an inner ring of gas spins into the black hole, gas particles shoot outward from the black hole’s polar regions. Like bullets shot from a rifle, they zoom through the jets at velocities close to the speed of light.
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observed correlations between supermassive black holes and an event similar to tidal disruption, pictured above in the Centaurus A galaxy. Certain galaxies have shining centers, illuminated by heated gas circling around a supermassive black hole. Matter escapes where it can, forming two jets of plasma moving near the speed of light.
To learn more about the relationship between galaxies and the black holes at their cores, go to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/
A team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope found an unambiguous link between the presence of supermassive black holes that power high-speed, radio-signal-emitting jets and the merger history of their host galaxies. Almost all galaxies with the jets were found to be merging with another galaxy, or to have done so recently.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.
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