Supermassive black holes responsible for energy storm in 'boring' galaxy

Using the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA), scientists examined the "boring" Teacup galaxy and found a surprising amount of activity by its black hole.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Feb 20, 2015
Scientists have discovered surprisingly energetic activity in what was previously believed to be a "boring" galaxy, shedding more light on the activities of supermassive black holes.

Researchers used the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) to make observations of the Teacup Galaxy, a fairly ordinary galaxy by scientific standards, and have found that a supermassive black hole has a huge amount of influence on the galaxy, according to a Fox News report.

Scientists showed that black holes can wreak havoc over an enormous distance, even though they are a billionth the size of galaxies that they reside in, according to Chris Harrison from the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at Durham University in the UK, as reported by Fox News.

Gas is heated and driven out of black holes at "incredible speeds," Harrison said.

Scientists examined both spiral and elliptical galaxies, the former of which is very active and creates new stars often, while the latter typically has much less gas and star formation. The Teacup is an elliptical galaxy undergoing a transformation stage into retirement from star formation, but scientists still found that the black hole was creating a giant storm in the middle of the galaxy preventing the formation of stars.

These "radio bubbles" often spread 30,000 to 40,000 light years from its core with "jet" structures up to 2,000 light years in size, moving at about 621 miles per second.

It's caused scientists to reflect on our own galaxy's formation, Harrison said, noting that the black hole at the center of the Milky Way may have driven large amounts of energy in the past and could have led to its creation billions of years ago.

Teacup is talked about as a relatively "boring" galaxy as it is radio quiet -- i.e., not very bright viewed through a radio telescope. The scientific team is likely to examine many more galaxies after making these observations.


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