The dynamic environments around active galaxies often exhibit delicate filaments of cold gas. In a new study, scientists have explored how these fragile structures are able to form and survive within their hot, fast-moving surroundings.
In this annotated image of NGC 1275 (click to enlarge), outlines and insets identify two filamentary structures: the blue loop (dotted outline and bottom left inset) and the horseshoe filament (dashed outline and top right inset). These two strikingly shaped filaments may both have been created during the same outburst. [Annotations: Yu Qiu]The Perseus cluster, located more than 200 million light-years away, is a collection of thousands of galaxies embedded in a cloud of hot gas. At the cluster’s heart lies NGC 1275, an active galaxy that’s rapidly forming stars and contains an accreting supermassive black hole — two factors that result in outbursts of hot, fast outflows that are spewed into the intracluster medium.
In the midst of all this action, there’s a conundrum: we also see cold, outflowing gas that forms slender, elongated filamentary structures extending tens of thousands of light-years. Where does this cold gas come from, and how is it not heated or destroyed by the fast, hot outflows ...