Feeds

Astroboffin says 'black holes murder galaxies'

But not ours

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

About 25,000 light years from earth, nestled in the center of our galaxy, lurks a supermassive black hole. Luckily for us, our galaxy's matter-sucking hub is far less active than those at the core of many other galaxies.

If it weren't, we'd all be dead. Or, more likely, our earth would never have come to be in the first place.

Such are the conclusions of a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham's School of Physics & Astronomy, led by PhD student Asa Bluck, who gave a talk on Friday at the 2010 Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting (RAS NAM) entitled "The Co-Evolution of Massive Galaxies and their Supermassive Black Holes over the last 11.5 Gyrs."

That title is sciencespeak for findings that Science dubbed "Supermassive Black Holes Can Kill Whole Galaxies" and that the RAS's own PR machine simplified to "Black Holes and Galaxy Death."

Most boffins agree that there's a black hole at the core of most - if not all - galaxies, and that those monstrous gravitational sumps can have masses between hundreds of thousands to billions of times that of our puny sun. Which, by the way, is over 330,000 times as massive as our home planet.

Galaxy Galaxy NGC 1275 suffering galaxicide under the influence of a supermassive black hole

NGC 1275 suffering galaxicide at the hand of its supermassive black hole

What Bluck and his team claim to have discovered is that black holes of the supermassive class are more common than thought - about one-third of all massive galaxies have them in their centers, they say - and that in many cases those supermassive black holes are murdering their hosts.

As black holes suck galactic dust and gas into their maws, the doomed matter heats up as it rotates around the black hole before falling past the event horizon. This heating releases an enormous amount of radiation - so much so that the energy from this "accretion disk" can be greater than that emitted by the hundreds of billions of stars in the doomed galaxy.

And according to Bluck, the galaxy that is having its life thus sucked out is, indeed, doomed. The accretion disk's radiation "shines" across all wavelengths - from radio waves to gamma waves - and in doing so it heats up the galaxy's remaining gas and dust so much that that material becomes too warm to coalesce and form new stars.

With no new stars being born, the galaxy can't renew itself, and its existing stars eventually burn out as red giants. At that point it's lights out, galactic party over, last one to leave please turn off the accretion disk - because with nothing left to eat, the black hole itself is doomed.

Bluck and his team gathered the data for their study terrestrially from the Palomar Observatory Wide-field Infrared Survey, and exoatmospherically from the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.