Looking for a fireworks show this 4th of July? Try checking out the distant universe, where powerful jets flung from supermassive black holes slam into their surroundings, lighting up the sky. Though these jets are hidden behind shrouds of gas and dust, a new study has now revealed some of these young powerhouses.
A Galaxy–Black-Hole Connection
This composite image of Centaurus A shows an example of large-scale jets launched from an AGN, which can eventually extend far beyond the galaxy, as seen here. [ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)]In the turbulent centers of active galaxies (active galactic nuclei, or AGN), gas and dust rains onto supermassive black holes of millions to billions of solar masses, triggering dramatic jets that plow into the surrounding matter and light up across the electromagnetic spectrum.
The growth of a supermassive black hole is thought to be closely tied to the evolution of its host galaxy, and feedback like these jets may provide that link. As the jets collide with the gas and dust surrounding the galaxy’s nucleus, they can trigger a range of effects — from shock waves that drive star formation, to gas removal that quenches star formation.