Science & Technology

Indian researchers spot rare supermassive black hole, opens new avenues for star formation research

Researchers speculate that jets fired by supermassive black holes will likely suppress future star formation

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Thursday 13 October 2022

A rare supermassive black hole has been spotted by a team of Indian researchers, according to a recent study.

The monster black hole is about one billion light years away from the Earth, noted the study published in the Royal Astronomical Society’s monthly notices.

The black hole in question was captured, spewing a jet of radiation and particles in one direction, unlike others that fire jets in opposite directions.

“But strangely for this galaxy, only one side of the jet is seen. This is bizarre,” said Ananda Hota, the lead author of the study from the University of Mumbai.

Supermassive black holes create powerful jets of radiation and particles. They are located at the centre of galaxies.

Hota and his team first spotted this unusual black hole in 2013. In the subsequent years, they observed the strange object using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope, located near Pune. They also sought the assistance of other international radio and optical telescopes.

The supermassive black hole occupies the centre of the RAD 12 galaxy, which is elliptical or egg-shaped. RAD 12 is in the process of merging with another galaxy, RAD 12b, in the next one billion years.

RAD 12b, which is also elliptical, is bigger and brighter than RAD 12. The jet is bigger than its host, RAD 12. It resembles a 440 thousand light-years-long mushroom, the study estimated.

The jet bounces back after hitting RAD 12b — like a fountain, said Hota.

“We are yet to know the implications of this jet’s collission with a neighbouring galaxy,” the expert added.

The researchers said this was the first time a jet hit a bigger galaxy. This explains why it bounces back and forms a mushroom bubble. 

This discovery may help scientists study why star formation does not occur in elliptical galaxiesStar formation requires extremely cooled gas, usually forged in a cloud of interstellar gas and dust. Temperatures in these regions range from -253.15°C-263.15°C, according to the University of Oregon.

Theoretically, jets remove cold gas and suppress star formation, explained Hota. Researchers speculate that jets fired by supermassive black holes will likely suppress future star formation.

The interaction between RAD 12 and RAD 12b does not show signs of young star formation either, said the findings of the study.

Usually, jet collision scatters gas and produces ionised gas. “We want to further understand how the gas is scattered and whether any cold gases are formed during the collission,” Hota said.

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