Heavier than the sun and elusive from astronomers, black holes feed on everything and anything in its path. Sometimes, however, a black hole can take in or eat too much and dispels an outflow. Researchers from the University of Maryland recently published a paper exactly about this topic. The outflow from black holes, according to the journal, can have an influence on the growth of the galaxy the black hole is located. It does this by wiping away the nearby gasses and containing new star formations.
Black holes, according to NASA, are places in space where the gravity is pulled into the black hole so strongly that even light or particles can escape from inside. While a black hole is notoriously difficult to find and observe, scientists theorize that black holes form when a dying star’s center collapses. The forces outside force the star to collapse, compact, and condense creating the black hole.
EurekAlert! Reported that one of the features of a supermassive black hole, the gas outflow, is what happens when black holes “eat[s] too much and burp[s] out an ultra-fast wind, or outflow.” The study went on to say that the winds created from the outflow clears the surrounding gas in a galaxy and stops star formation. The study was published in Nature by Erin Kara, a University of Maryland postdoctoral researcher in astronomy and her team.
Kara’s team used two telescopes one from NASA and one from the European Space Agency (ESA) the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the XXM-Newton. The team them focused the XX-M Newton on a black hole for “17 days in a row” while observing it with the NuSTAR for six days. Wind temperatures from the black hole were studied using X-rays from the edge of the black hole that passed through the outflows. EurekAlert! Reported that as the x-rays traveled to Earth, they passed through elements that absorbed parts of the X-ray and creating “dips” in the X-ray signal. Called absorption features, the researchers learned which elements were found in the outflow wind.
The absorption features went away and came back over a few hours, leading Kara’s team to theorize that the X-rays were being heated to millions of degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the winds could not absorb more X-rays. Outflows and X-rays appear to be linked, providing researchers clues to where the outflow emerged.
More research is needed, especially with “better and more spectrometers,” Chris Reynolds, a University of Maryland astronomy professor and the co-principal investigator said. Reynolds went on to add that they did not know if the outflow was made of just one type of gas or multiple types of gas. This information will be an important factor in understanding how these outflows from black holes connect to galaxy formation, Reynolds concluded.
By Cheryl Werber
Image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech