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.
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.