STARS SEEN FORMING IN WINDS FROM SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE
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