Universe  ID: 11821

Suzaku, Herschel Link a Black-hole 'Wind' to a Galactic Gush

By combining observations from the Japan-led Suzaku X-ray satellite and the European Space Agency's infrared Herschel Space Observatory, scientists have connected a fierce "wind" produced near a galaxy's monster black hole to an outward torrent of cold gas a thousand light-years across. The finding validates a long-suspected feedback mechanism enabling a supermassive black hole to influence the evolution of its host galaxy.

Lead researcher Francesco Tombesi, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), and his team report the connection in a galaxy known as IRAS F11119+3257, or F11119 for short. The galaxy is so distant, its light has been traveling to us for 2.3 billion years, or about half the present age of our solar system.

Like most galaxies, including our own Milky Way, F11119 hosts a supersized black hole, one estimated at 16 million times the sun's mass. The black hole's activity is fueled by a rotating collection of gas called an accretion disk, which is some hundreds of times the size of our planetary system. Closest to the black hole, the orbiting matter reaches temperatures of millions of degrees and is largely responsible for the galaxy's enormous energy output, which exceeds the sun's by more than a trillion times. The galaxy is heavily enshrouded by dust, so most of this emission reaches us in the form of infrared light.

In May 2013, the team observed F11119 using Suzaku's X-ray Imaging Spectrometer, obtaining an effective exposure of nearly three days. The galaxy's spectrum indicates that X-ray-absorbing gas is racing outward from the innermost accretion disk at 170 million mph (270 million kph), or about a quarter the speed of light. The region is possibly half a billion miles (800 million km) from the brink of the black hole, and about as close to the point where not even light can escape as Jupiter is from the sun.

Taken together, the disk wind and the molecular outflow complete the picture of black-hole feedback. The black-hole wind sets cold gas and dust into motion, giving rise to the molecular outflow. It also heats dust enshrouding the galaxy, leading to the formation of an outward-moving shock wave that sweeps away additional gas and dust. Star formation takes place in cold, dense molecular clouds. By heating and dispersing gas that could one day make stars, the black-hole wind forever alters a large portion of its galaxy.

Scientists think ultra-luminous infrared galaxies like F11119 represent an early phase in the evolution of quasars, a type of black-hole-powered galaxy with extreme luminosity across a broad wavelength range. According to this picture, the black hole will eventually consume its surrounding gas and gradually end its spectacular activity. As it does so, it will evolve from a quasar to a gas-poor galaxy with a relatively low level of star formation.

For More Information

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/suzaku-herschel-link-a-black-hole-wind-to-a-galactic-gush-of-star-forming-gas/


Credits

Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Lead Producer
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Lead Animator
Francis Reddy (Syneren Technologies): Lead Writer
Francesco Tombesi (UMCP): Scientist
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.

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Mission:
Suzaku

Data Used:
Suzaku
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This item is part of this series:
Astrophysics Animations

Keywords:
SVS >> Galaxy
SVS >> HDTV
SVS >> X-ray
SVS >> Black Hole
SVS >> Quasar
SVS >> Astrophysics
SVS >> Space
SVS >> Suzaku
SVS >> Interstellar Medium
SVS >> Star
NASA Science >> Universe
SVS >> Star Formation