Black hole’s winds so strong they can blow out stars

Researchers have observed winds blowing from a black hole that are capable of gusting gas out of a galaxy and killing baby stars. The study reinforces the thought that star formations in galaxies can be controlled by black holes. 

The findings by British, US and Spanish scientists reported in Nature.

There seems to be a correlation between active galactic nuclei, which are supermassive black holes that release large amounts of energy as they pull in matter, and the mass and components of galaxies. It is thought that these active galactic nuclei can drive the flow of dense molecular gas (from which stars form) through the galaxy, which could quench star formation, thereby regulating galaxy growth. This theory is supported by Francesco Tombesi and colleagues, who find evidence for the launching of a wind from a supermassive black hole that could power the ejection of molecular gas in a nearby galaxy called IRAS F11119+3257.

Large-scale winds have been seen before, but what makes this study remarkable is that the authors have linked the small-scale wind coming off the accretion disc around the black hole to the outflow of molecular gas detected in the same galaxy, says James Geach in Nature. “This provides new insights into the mechanism by which the central black hole is affecting its host galaxy.”

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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