Hot ionized gas is streaming out of the accretion disk of a supermassive black hole and slamming into its surroundings at a significant fraction of the speed of light. And this kind of ultra-fast outflow (UFO) might explain the nearly empty darkness that surrounds the center of many galaxies, astronomers now say.
These astronomers base their argument, published in the July issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, on a new observation of galaxy PG 1114+445 from the European Space Agency’s X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton) telescope. For the first time, the researchers were able to snap an image of UFOs pushing other material around at the heart of a galaxy.
Their observations showed that energy was being transferred from the UFO to other winds near the black hole, pushing that wind to incredible speeds. This is important, the researchers wrote, because it could explain a long-standing mystery about supermassive black holes: The bigger the supermassive black hole, the faster the inner stars in its host galaxy move. Gravity alone can’t explain this relationship, but if the larger black holes spew more intense outflows that shove out gas at higher speeds, they could also be sweeping away nearby stars and accelerating them to higher speeds.
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