Thu May 10, 2012

Photo: Overfed Black Holes Shut Down Galactic Star-making

This photo illustration of a "massive black hole in the center of a galaxy ejecting massive jets of energy" is what caught our eye, but it comes with some amazing science involving the University of Colorado.

The study involving CU's astrophysical and planetary sciences department made use of the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory currently in orbit.

It would seem that there is a relationship between production of stars and the strength and activity of black holes. According to a release from CU:

“We want to know how star formation and black hole activity are linked,” said Mathew Page of University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the United Kingdom, lead study author. “The two processes increase together up to a point, but the most energetic black holes appear to turn off star formation.”

It sounds like a carbureted engine. Increasing throttle, increases fuel flow and in turn increases the engine output. But if you flood the carburetor, then the engine stalls and dies. Perhaps it is better explained by study co-author Professor Jason Glenn:

“By using data from Herschel, we now have the first direct evidence that the larger, more energetic black holes were quenching star formation billions of years ago,” said Glenn of CU-Boulder’s astrophysical and planetary sciences department. “The study shows a correlation between the amount of black hole accretion -- essentially the amount of material falling into it -- and the limiting of star formation.”

A more thoroughly scientific explanation of the study will be published in the current issue of Nature. However, if photo illustrations of energetic ejections from massive black holes isn't incredible enough for you, you can instead see what ZZ Top looks like in space.