Science News
from research organizations

Supernovas help 'clean' galaxies

Date:
May 26, 2015
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Astronomers have found that the black holes located at the cores of galaxies launch fountains of charged particles, which can stir up gas throughout the galaxy and temporarily interrupt star formation. But unless something intervenes, the gas will eventually cool and start forming stars again.
Share:
FULL STORY

Jets erupting from a supermassive black hole, such as the one in Centaurus A (shown in this color composite image), might clear the way for supernovas to sweep out gas and stop star formation.
Credit: Photo credit: WFI/ESO (optical); A. Weill et al/APEX/MPIFR and ESO (submillimeter); R. Kraft et al/ CXC/CFA and NASA (X-ray).

Supernovas just might be the maid service of the universe. It seems these explosions that mark the end of a star's life work hand-in-hand with supermassive black holes to sweep out gas and shut down galaxies' star-forming factories.

Recent research, led by Michigan State University astronomers, finds that the black holes located at the cores of galaxies launch fountains of charged particles, which can stir up gas throughout the galaxy and temporarily interrupt star formation.

But unless something intervenes, the gas will eventually cool and start forming stars again.

One mega-outburst from the black hole, though, could heat the gas surrounding the galaxy enough to let supernovas take over and mop up the mess. A celestial cleaning partnership might help astronomers understand why some massive galaxies stopped forming stars billions of years ago.

"Our previous research had shown that black-hole outbursts can limit star formation in massive galaxies, but they can't completely shut it off," said team leader Mark Voit, MSU professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Natural Science. "Something else needs to keep sweeping out the gas that dying stars continually dump into a galaxy, and supernova sweeping appears to work perfectly for that."

Other members of the research team are Megan Donahue, MSU professor of physics and astronomy; Brian O'Shea, MSU associate professor of physics and astronomy; Greg Bryan, Columbia University professor of astronomy; Ming Sun, University of Alabama in Huntsville assistant professor of physics; and Norbert Werner, Stanford University research associate.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. Mark Voit, Megan Donahue, Brian W. O’Shea, Greg L. Bryan, Ming Sun, Norbert Werner. SUPERNOVA SWEEPING AND BLACK HOLE FEEDBACK IN ELLIPTICAL GALAXIES. The Astrophysical Journal, 2015; 803 (2): L21 DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/803/2/L21

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Supernovas help 'clean' galaxies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150526155720.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2015, May 26). Supernovas help 'clean' galaxies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150526155720.htm
Michigan State University. "Supernovas help 'clean' galaxies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150526155720.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

RELATED STORIES