Finding answers at a galactic fountain

Researchers have detected a galaxy-scale fountain of cold molecular gas that is powered by a massive black hole, a discovery that offers a more complete understanding of the evolution of galaxies.

The “galactic fountain” is one billion light years from Earth, in a nearby galaxy cluster known as Abell 2597. There, cold gas falls toward the black hole, igniting it and causing it to launch fast-moving jets of incandescent plasma into the cosmic void. Because the plasma can’t evade the galaxy’s gravity, it eventually cools, slows down, and rains back down on the black hole — where the cycle starts again.

Composite image of the Abell 2597 galaxy cluster showing the fountain-like flow of gas powered by the supermassive black hole in
Composite image of the Abell 2597 galaxy cluster showing the fountain-like flow of gas powered by the supermassive black hole in the central galaxy. (Credit: ALMA [ESO/NAOJ/NRAO], Tremblay et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF, B. Saxton; NASA/Chandra; ESO/VLT)

The research appears in The Astrophysical Journal. The study’s lead author is former Yale researcher Grant Tremblay, who is now at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Co-authors from Yale are Dominic Eggerman, Nathaniel Kerman, Meredith Powell, and Meg Urry, the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy.

Share this with Facebook Share this with Twitter Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this

Media Contact

Jim Shelton: james.shelton@yale.edu, 203-361-8332