Astronomers have discovered two large and mysterious objects emanating from the brightest black hole in the known universe.
It was discovered in the 1959 survey of cosmic space radio wave Sources, enormous Black hole 3C 273 is a quasar – short for “quasi-stellar body”, because the light emitted by this giant is bright enough to be confused with starlight. While black holes themselves do not emit light, the largest of them are surrounded by huge swirls of gas called accretion disks. When gas falls into a black hole at a speed close to the speed of light, friction The disc heats up and causes it to ignite with radiation – usually detected as radio waves.
Quasar 3C 273 is the first quasar ever identified. It is also the brightest, with a brightness of more than 4 trillion times a landThe Sun while sitting at a distance of more than 2.4 billion light years far. For decades, scientists have studied the scorching core of a black hole extensively – but because a quasar is so bright, studying the surrounding galaxy that hosts it has been nearly impossible. Ironically, this striking brightness has largely left scientists in the dark about how quasars affect their host galaxies.
Now, a new study was published on April 28 in Astrophysical Journal That might eventually change.
In the study, a team of researchers calibrated the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile to separate the radiant glow of 3C 273’s quasar from the light emitted by the host galaxy. They were left with radio waves emitted by the quasar galaxy – revealing two massive and mysterious radio structures never seen before.
One of the structures appears to be a massive smudge of radio light that envelopes the entire galaxy, then extends for tens of thousands of light-years to the southwest. This radio fog interferes with the second structure – a giant jet of energy, known as an astrophysical jet, that also spans tens of thousands of light-years.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly how and why astrophysical jets form. However, they do know that jets are commonly seen around quasars and other supermassive black holes, and likely arise from interactions between the black hole and the dust accretion disk. The jets are typically made of ionized (electrically charged) material, and travel at nearly the speed of light.
Radiation from these jets can appear brighter or fainter depending on the radio frequency at which they are seen – however, the large radio structure surrounding galaxy 3C 273 showed uniform brightness, regardless of its frequency. According to the researchers, this indicates that the two radio structures were created by separate, unrelated phenomena.
After testing several theories, the team concluded that the large radio haze around the galaxy comes from star-forming hydrogen gas that is directly ionized by the quasar itself. This is the first time that ionized gas has been seen extending tens of thousands of light-years around a supermassive black hole, according to the researchers.
The discovery touches on an ancient mystery in astronomy: Can a quasar ionize so much gas in a host galaxy that it prevents new stars from forming? To answer this question, the researchers compared the galaxy’s estimated mass of gas with other galaxies of the same type and size. They found that while the quasar has ionized a mind-boggling amount of gas, rendering it useless for building new stars, star formation has not been visibly suppressed in the galaxy in general. This indicates that burgeoning and growing galaxies still exist with radiation-belching quasars in their centers.
“This discovery provides a new avenue for studying problems previously addressed using observations with optical light,” said lead study author Shinya Komoji, associate professor at Kogakuen University in Tokyo. He said in a statement. “By applying the same technology to other quasars, we expect to understand how the galaxy evolves through its interaction with the central core.”
Originally published on Live Science.