A prevailing galactic explosion produced by a giant black hole situated almost 26 million light years away from Earth has provoked a new leap in the field of cosmology. This is one of the nearest super-massive black holes to Earth and its frequent violent outbursts can somehow change the galactic climate is been proposed by a team of researchers led by Eric Schlegel, Professor of Physics at The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Schlegel’s team used NASA’s Earth-orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory to locate the black hole blast in the famous Messier 51 system of galaxies. The Messier 51 system contains a large spiral galaxy, NGC 5194, colliding with a smaller companion galaxy, NGC 5195.
“Just as powerful storms here on Earth impact their environments, so too do the ones we see out in space,” Schlegel said. “This black hole is blasting hot gas and particles into its surroundings that must play an important role in the evolution of the galaxy.”
Schlegel and his colleagues, including Fisk University graduate student and UTSA alumna Laura Vega, detected two X-ray emission arcs near to the center of NGC 5195, where the super-massive black hole is located.
“We think these arcs represent artifacts from two enormous gusts when the black hole expelled material outward into the galaxy,” said co-author Christine Jones, astrophysicist, and lecturer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “We think this activity has had a big effect on the galactic landscape.”
The researchers detected a willowy region of hydrogen gas emission just beyond the outer arc, suggesting that X-ray emitting gas expatriate the hydrogen gas from the center of the galaxy.
Furthermore, the properties of the gas around the arcs propose that the outer arc has flounced up enough material to trigger the formation of new stars. This type of phenomenon, where a black hole affects its host galaxy, is called feedback.
“We think that feedback keeps galaxies from becoming too large,” said co-author Marie Machacek, an astrophysicist at CfA. “But at the same time, it can be responsible for how some stars form, showing that black holes can be creative, not just destructive.”
The on-going events has led the astronomers to believe that black hole’s outbursts may have been triggered by the interaction of NGC 5195 with its larger companion, NGC 5194, causing gas to be channeled toward the black hole. The team estimates that it took about one to three million years for the inner arc to reach its current position and three to six million years for the outer arc.
The black hole’s behavior may be an indigenous example of events that commonly took place when the universe was much younger which makes this observation potentially very important, Schlegel said.
This discovery is a step ahead in solving the mysteries surrounding the birth of our universe and has manage to exhume some of the secrets from the remotest periods of cosmic history.