The unexpected matter found in hostile black hole winds

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The unexpected matter found in hostile black hole winds

Post by Dragon on Wed Jan 31, 2018 3:00 am

Astronomers questioned how anything could survive the heat of the energetic outflows, but a new theory from researchers in Northwestern University's Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Exploration in Astrophysics (CIERA) predicts that these molecules are not survivors at all, but brand-new molecules, born in the winds with unique properties that enable them to adapt to and thrive in the hostile environment.

The theory, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is the work of Lindheimer post-doctoral fellow Alexander Richings, who developed the computer code that, for the first time, modeled the detailed chemical processes that occur in interstellar gas accelerated by radiation emitted during the growth of supermassive black holes. Claude-André Faucher-Giguère, who studies galaxy formation and evolution as an assistant professor in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is a co-author.

"When a black hole wind sweeps up gas from its host galaxy, the gas is heated to high temperatures, which destroy any existing molecules," Richings said. "By modeling the molecular chemistry in computer simulations of black hole winds, we found that this swept-up gas can subsequently cool and form new molecules."

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Re: The unexpected matter found in hostile black hole winds

Post by Dragon on Wed Jan 31, 2018 3:02 am


Credit: Northwestern University

The existence of large numbers of molecules in winds powered by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has puzzled astronomers since they were discovered more than a decade ago. Molecules trace the coldest parts of space, and black holes are the most energetic phenomena in the universe, so finding molecules in black hole winds was like discovering ice in a furnace.

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Re: The unexpected matter found in hostile black hole winds

Post by Dragon on Wed Jan 31, 2018 3:03 am



Observations using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.

These are the first confirmed observations of stars forming in this kind of extreme environment. The discovery has many consequences for understanding galaxy properties and evolution. The results are published in the journal Nature.

 
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