Galaxy survives hungry black hole, produces 100 stars

Astronomers are rethinking the current understanding of how galaxies evolve. It’s just that NASA discovered a galaxy that not only survives the banquet of a supermassive black hole feeding on its stars but also creates new fast-paced stars. This goes against all current scientific models.

Until now, researchers thought that a very active black hole ends up devouring so much material around it that it consumes its entire host galaxy.

It is in this intense process, even, that quasars are born – one of the most brilliant objects in the universe. But the galaxy found is surviving a large black hole and continues to generate about 100 stars the size of the Sun each year.

It was through SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), NASA’s telescope that flies on an aeroplane, that scientists observed the galaxy called CQ4479. The new published study in the Astrophysical Journal, may bring a new understanding of the formation as well as the evolution of galaxies in the universe.

This galaxy is more than 5.25 billion light-years away, but the brightness of its quasar can be discovered recently by Allison Kirkpatrick, co-author of the new study. This quasar is of the “cold” type, that is, its black hole is still feeding on the material from its host galaxy, but the energy resulting from the quasar has not destroyed the region’s cold gas. That’s why stars can continue to rise – after all, they are made of the same gas.

Although Kirkpatrick announced the discovery of cold quasars in 2019, this is the first time that astronomers have had the opportunity to look at one in detail. This makes it possible to calculate characteristics such as the growth of the black hole, the rate of birth of stars and how much gas remains to continue star formation.

If the same process continues at its current pace, “the black hole and the stars around it will triple in mass before the galaxy reaches the end of its life,” said Kevin Cooke, who led the study.

All of this seems quite surprising even to the scientists who conducted the research. It is that current theories predict that the energy of the quasar heats or expels the cold gas necessary to create stars, thus causing the end of the galaxy’s growth. It now remains to continue searching the space with SOFIA to find out if – and how many – galaxies like this one exist out there.

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