STARS SEEN FORM­ING IN WINDS FROM SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

It’s a fly­ing cos­mic crèche: a clutch of new­ly­formed stars has been ob­served hurtling away from a supermassive black hole.

The stars were spot­ted in IRAS F23128-5919, a pair of col­lid­ing galax­ies around 600 mil­lion light-years from Earth, by a group of re­searchers us­ing the Very Large Tele­scope at the Euro­pean South­ern Ob­ser­va­tory in Paranal, Chile. The team de­tected the young stars by look­ing for the dis­tinc­tive pat­tern of ra­di­a­tion they emit.

The stars are thought to be just a few mil­lion years old, and are trav­el­ling away from the cen­tre of the gal­axy at high speed. It is the first time stars have been ob­served form­ing in this kind of ex­treme en­vi­ron­ment.

Supermassive black holes lurk in the cores of most galax­ies. When they gob­ble up mat­ter, they also heat the sur­round­ing gas and ex­pel it from the host gal­axy in pow­er­ful, dense winds.

“As­tronomers have thought for a while that con­di­tions within these out­flows could be right for star for­ma­tion, but no one has seen it ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing as it’s a very dif­fi­cult ob­ser­va­tion,” said re­search lead Roberto Maiolino. “Our re­sults are ex­cit­ing be­cause they show un­am­bigu­ously that stars are be­ing cre­ated in­side these out­flows.”

The dis­cov­ery could im­prove our un­der­stand­ing of how galax­ies ob­tain their shapes, and how heavy elements make their way into in­ter­ga­lac­tic space. “If star for­ma­tion is re­ally oc­cur­ring in most ga­lac­tic out­flows, as some the­o­ries pre­dict, then this would pro­vide a com­pletely new sce­nario for our un­der­stand­ing of gal­axy evo­lu­tion,” ex­plained Maiolino.

“IT IS THE FIRST TIME STARS HAVE BEEN OB­SERVED FORM­ING IN THIS KIND OF EX­TREME EN­VI­RON­MENT”

This vi­su­al­i­sa­tion shows ma­te­rial

spew­ing from a black hole

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