A team of astronomers studying data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered the most energetic outflows ever witnessed in the universe. They emanate from quasars and tear across interstellar space in tsunami-like fashion, wreaking havoc on the galaxies in which they live. In addition to emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy, quasars contain supermassive black holes fueled by in-falling matter that can shine 1,000 times brighter than their host galaxies of hundreds of billions of stars. Read more for a video about quasars and additional information.
Once the black hole starts devouring matter, hot gas encircles it and emits intense radiation, creating the quasar. Winds that are driven by immense radiation pressure from the vicinity of the black hole, push material away from the galaxy’s center. These outflows accelerate to extreme velocities that are just shy of the speed of light.
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Both theoreticians and observers have known for decades that there is some physical process that shuts off star formation in massive galaxies, but the nature of that process has been a mystery. Putting the observed outflows into our simulations solves these outstanding problems in galactic evolution,” said eminent cosmologist Jeremiah P. Ostriker of Columbia University in New York and Princeton University in New Jersey.