Expanding super bubble of gas detected around massive black holes in the young Universe
2017 March 29

'>Left - Composite image of a radio galaxy and gas blob, in the optical, infrared and x-rays. Right - Artist's impression of the galaxy, with jets emission shown. Credit: Left - (NASA/CXC/Durham Univ./D.Alexander et al., NASA/ESA/STScI/IoA/S.Chapman et al., NAOJ/Subaru/Tohoku Univ./T.Hayashino et al., NASA/JPL-Caltech/Durham Univ./J.Geach et al. Right - NASA/CXC/M.WeissSchematic of the expanding gas Bubble, over a radio image of the full field of TXS 0828+193. Credit: Morais et al. 2017
In a study1 led by Sandy Morais, a PhD student at Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA2) and Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP), researchers found massive super bubbles of gas and dust around two distant radio galaxies3, about 11,5 billion light-years away.

Andrew Humphrey (IA & University of Porto), the leader of the project commented: “By studying violent galaxies like these, we have gained a new insight into the way supermassive black holes affect the evolution of the galaxies in which they reside.”

The researchers used two of the largest observatories available today, the Keck II (Hawaii) and the Gran Telescópio de Canárias (GTC), to observe TXS0211−122 and TXS 0828+193, two powerful radio galaxies, harboring the most energetic type of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) known. This type of galaxy houses the most massive Black Holes and have the most powerful continuous energy ejections known.

The team discovered expanding super bubbles of gas around each of TXS 0211-122 and TXS 0828+193, most likely caused by “feedback” activity whereby the AGN injects vast quantities of energy into its host galaxy, creating a powerful wind that sweeps up gas and dust into an expanding super bubble.

Study of the symbiosis between the supermassive black hole and the galaxy is a key to understanding the evolution of the most massive galaxies. Ultraviolet emission from the black hole’s accretion disk can inhibit star formation temporarily, by ionizing the Interstellar medium, and the great outflows of gas towards the black hole can lead to permanent inhibition of star formation.

  1. The article “Ionization and feedback in Lyα haloes around two radio galaxies at z ∼ 2.5” was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Vol. 465, issue 3, March 2017 (DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stw2926)
  2. The Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences – IA) is the largest Portuguese research unit in space sciences and integrates researchers from the University of Lisbon and the University of Porto. The institute encompasses most of the field’s national scientific output and it was evaluated as Excellent in the last evaluation from the European Science Foundation (ESF). IA's activity is funded by national and international funds, including Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (UID/FIS/04434/2013), POPH/FSE and FEDER through COMPETE 2020.
  3. Radio galaxies are a type of galaxy with an ‘active galactic nucleus’ (AGN) at their centre. This AGN consumes material like gas at such a high rate that it emits powerful radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. The AGN also launches powerful jets of material that glow brightly at radio frequencies. 

Contacts Science Communication Group

Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia