Astronomers studying an otherwise “boring” galaxy over a billion light-years from Earth have been surprised to see a powerful storm erupt from its core, an event that will quench any new star formation in the foreseeable future.
Chris Harrison, of The Center for Extragalactic Astronomy at Durham University in the U.K, and his team studied J1430+1339, also known as the “Teacup” owing to its apparent shape. The Teacup has been identified as possessing an active supermassive black hole in its core, consuming any material that falls too close, but it is also thought to be a galaxy in transition. Once an active star-forming galaxy, it now has the appearance of a giant elliptical galaxy, a sign that star formation may be coming to an end.
“It appears that a supermassive black hole is explosively heating and blasting around the gas in this galaxy and, as a result, is transforming it from an actively star-forming galaxy into one devoid of gas that can no longer form stars,” said Chris Harrison.
The impact of the supermassive black hole in the core of the Teacup is clear — vast radio bright bubbles expanding up to 40,000 light-years protrude from the galaxy’s core with smaller-scale jets of plasma accelerating material to around 1,000 kilometers per second (2.2 million miles per hour). This incredibly high level of activity came as a surprise.
“These radio observations have revealed that the central black hole is whipping up a storm at the center of this galaxy, by launching powerful jets that are accelerating the gas in the host galaxy and are colliding with the gas on larger scales,” explained co-investigator Alasdair Thomson, also from Durham.
“This is the same kind of powerful process we’d previously seen in rare, extremely radio-luminous galaxies. The incredible capabilities of the VLA have allowed us to discover that these processes can occur in the more-common, radio-faint galaxies, as long as you look hard enough.”
This galactic storms means that the jet-driven process may be far more typical than astronomers first thought. Currently, the researchers are now analyzing their data of eight more similar objects to see if they have similar characteristics.
Science Journal: http://goo.gl/3lRJdE.