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Suppression of star formation in early-type galaxies by feedback from supermassive black holes


Detailed high-resolution observations of the innermost regions of nearby galaxies have revealed the presence of supermassive black holes1,2,3,4. These black holes may interact with their host galaxies by means of ‘feedback’ in the form of energy and material jets; this feedback affects the evolution of the host and gives rise to observed relations between the black hole and the host5. Here we report observations of the ultraviolet emissions of massive early-type galaxies. We derive an empirical relation for a critical black-hole mass (as a function of velocity dispersion) above which the outflows from these black holes suppress star formation in their hosts by heating and expelling all available cold gas. Supermassive black holes are negligible in mass compared to their hosts but nevertheless seem to play a critical role in the star formation history of galaxies.

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Figure 1: The relationship between stellar velocity dispersion, luminosity and the fraction of star-forming early-type galaxies.
Figure 2: The black-hole mass– σ and the critical supermassive black-hole mass– σ relation.
Figure 3: A schematic view of how the critical supermassive black hole mass– σ relation regulates galaxy evolution.


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We thank J. Magorrian for discussions and comments. GALEX is a NASA Small Explorer, launched in April 2003. We acknowledge NASA's support for construction, operation, and science analysis for the GALEX mission, developed in cooperation with the Centre National d'Études Spatiales of France and the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology. This work was supported by the Basic Research Program of the Korea Science & Engineering Foundation (S.K.Y.). Author Contributions K.S., S. Khochfar, S. Kaviraj and S.K.Y. performed the data sampling, analysis, interpretation, model construction, and writing of the manuscript. A.B. supplied the Virgo galaxy data, and the rest of the authors contributed to the data acquisition using the GALEX satellite.

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Correspondence to Sukyoung K. Yi.

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Supplementary Notes

This file provides short descriptions on the semi-analytic prescription we use to make galaxy evolution models with AGN feedback and on our data selection schemes. Main sections are 1. Galaxy Formation Modelling, 2. The Virgo Cluster Data, 3. The RSF Criterion, and 4. Visual Inspection of Galaxy Morphology. (PDF 125 kb)

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Schawinski, K., Khochfar, S., Kaviraj, S. et al. Suppression of star formation in early-type galaxies by feedback from supermassive black holes. Nature 442, 888–891 (2006).

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