Letter

Black-hole-regulated star formation in massive galaxies

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

Supermassive black holes, with masses more than a million times that of the Sun, seem to inhabit the centres of all massive galaxies1,2. Cosmologically motivated theories of galaxy formation require feedback from these supermassive black holes to regulate star formation3. In the absence of such feedback, state-of-the-art numerical simulations fail to reproduce the number density and properties of massive galaxies in the local Universe4,5,6. There is, however, no observational evidence of this strongly coupled coevolution between supermassive black holes and star formation, impeding our understanding of baryonic processes within galaxies. Here we report that the star formation histories of nearby massive galaxies, as measured from their integrated optical spectra, depend on the mass of the central supermassive black hole. Our results indicate that the black-hole mass scales with the gas cooling rate in the early Universe. The subsequent quenching of star formation takes place earlier and more efficiently in galaxies that host higher-mass central black holes. The observed relation between black-hole mass and star formation efficiency applies to all generations of stars formed throughout the life of a galaxy, revealing a continuous interplay between black-hole activity and baryon cooling.

  • Subscribe to Nature for full access:

    $199

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    et al. The demography of massive dark objects in galaxy centers. Astron. J. 115, 2285–2305 (1998)

  2. 2.

    et al. A relationship between nuclear black hole mass and galaxy velocity dispersion. Astrophys. J. 539, L13–L16 (2000)

  3. 3.

    & The current status of galaxy formation. Res. Astron. Astrophys. 12, 917–946 (2012)

  4. 4.

    et al. Introducing the Illustris Project: simulating the coevolution of dark and visible matter in the Universe. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 444, 1518–1547 (2014)

  5. 5.

    et al. The EAGLE project: simulating the evolution and assembly of galaxies and their environments. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 446, 521–554 (2015)

  6. 6.

    et al. Physics of galactic metals: evolutionary effects due to production, distribution, feedback & interaction with black holes. Astrophys. J. 844, 31 (2016)

  7. 7.

    & A fundamental relation between supermassive black holes and their host galaxies. Astrophys. J. 539, L9–L12 (2000)

  8. 8.

    et al. The EAGLE simulations of galaxy formation: calibration of subgrid physics and model variations. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 450, 1937–1961 (2015)

  9. 9.

    et al. The Illustris simulation: the evolving population of black holes across cosmic time. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 452, 575–596 (2015)

  10. 10.

    , , , & Hunting for supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies with the Hobby–Eberly Telescope. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 218, 10 (2015)

  11. 11.

    et al. The stellar mass assembly of galaxies in the Illustris simulation: growth by mergers and the spatial distribution of accreted stars. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 458, 2371–2390 (2016)

  12. 12.

    Unification of the fundamental plane and super massive black hole masses. Astrophys. J. 831, 134 (2016)

  13. 13.

    , , & STECKMAP: STEllar Content and Kinematics from high resolution galactic spectra via Maximum A Posteriori. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 365, 74–84 (2006)

  14. 14.

    et al. Evolutionary stellar population synthesis with MILES—I. The base models and a new line index system. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 404, 1639–1671 (2010)

  15. 15.

    , , , & Spectroscopic ages and metallicities of stellar populations: validation of full spectrum fitting. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 385, 1998–2010 (2008)

  16. 16.

    , , , & Star formation history of barred disc galaxies. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 415, 709–731 (2011)

  17. 17.

    On the last 10 billion years of stellar mass growth in star-forming galaxies. Astrophys. J. 745, 149 (2012)

  18. 18.

    et al. Recovering star formation histories: Integrated-light analyses vs. stellar colour-magnitude diagrams. Astron. Astrophys. 583, A60 (2015)

  19. 19.

    , , & On the correlations between galaxy properties and supermassive black hole mass. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 419, 2497–2528 (2012)

  20. 20.

    , , & The epochs of early-type galaxy formation as a function of environment. Astrophys. J. 621, 673–694 (2005)

  21. 21.

    How mergers may affect the mass scaling relation between gravitationally bound systems. Astrophys. J. 671, 1098–1107 (2007)

  22. 22.

    & The non-causal origin of the black-hole-galaxy scaling relations. Astrophys. J. 734, 92 (2011)

  23. 23.

    et al. A survey of z > 5.8 quasars in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. I. Discovery of three new quasars and the spatial density of luminous quasars at z = 6. Astron. J. 122, 2833–2849 (2001)

  24. 24.

    , , , & Stellar populations across the black hole mass-velocity dispersion relation. Astrophys. J. 832, L11 (2016)

  25. 25.

    et al. Quiescence correlates strongly with directly measured black hole mass in central galaxies. Astrophys. J. 830, L12 (2016)

  26. 26.

    et al. The dark nemesis of galaxy formation: why hot haloes trigger black hole growth and bring star formation to an end. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 465, 32–44 (2017)

  27. 27.

    et al. The host galaxies of active galactic nuclei. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 346, 1055–1077 (2003)

  28. 28.

    et al. GOODS-Herschel: the far-infrared view of star formation in active galactic nucleus host galaxies since z ≈ 3. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 419, 95–115 (2012)

  29. 29.

    et al. A remarkably flat relationship between the average star formation rate and AGN luminosity for distant X-ray AGN. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 453, 591–604 (2015)

  30. 30.

    , , , & Star formation in AGNs at the hundred parsec scale using MIR high-resolution images. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 466, 3353–3363 (2017)

  31. 31.

    & Parametric recovery of line-of-sight velocity distributions from absorption-line spectra of galaxies via penalized likelihood. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 116, 138–147 (2004)

  32. 32.

    , , & STECMAP: STEllar Content from high-resolution galactic spectra via Maximum A Posteriori. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 365, 46–73 (2006)

  33. 33.

    et al. Statistical properties of bright galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Photometric System. Astron. J. 122, 1238–1250 (2001)

  34. 34.

    , , & The bulge–halo connection in galaxies: a physical interpretation of the Vc–σ0 relation. Astrophys. J. 655, L21–L24 (2007)

  35. 35.

    & Coevolution (or not) of supermassive black holes and host galaxies. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 51, 511–653 (2013)

  36. 36.

    et al. The SAURON project: XVII. Stellar population analysis of the absorption line strength maps of 48 early-type galaxies. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 408, 97–132 (2010)

  37. 37.

    The black hole mass–stellar velocity dispersion correlation: bulges versus pseudo-bulges. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 386, 2242–2252 (2008)

  38. 38.

    , & Supermassive black holes do not correlate with galaxy disks or pseudobulges. Nature 469, 374–376 (2011)

  39. 39.

    et al. Evolutionary synthesis of galaxies at high spectral resolution with the code PEGASE-HR. Metallicity and age tracers. Astron. Astrophys. 425, 881–897 (2004)

  40. 40.

    & Stellar population synthesis at the resolution of 2003. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 344, 1000–1028 (2003)

  41. 41.

    , , , & Evolutionary stellar population synthesis at high spectral resolution: optical wavelengths. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 357, 945–960 (2005)

  42. 42.

    & Testing spectral models for stellar populations with star clusters: II. Results. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 403, 797–816 (2010)

  43. 43.

    , , & A large stellar evolution database for population synthesis studies. I. Scaled solar models and isochrones. Astrophys. J. 612, 168–190 (2004)

  44. 44.

    , , & Selection bias in the Mσ and ML correlations and its consequences. Astrophys. J. 660, 267–275 (2007)

  45. 45.

    et al. Selection bias in dynamically measured supermassive black hole samples: its consequences and the quest for the most fundamental relation. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 460, 3119–3142 (2016)

  46. 46.

    et al. The SINFONI Black Hole Survey: the black hole fundamental plane revisited and the paths of (co)evolution of supermassive black holes and bulges. Astrophys. J. 818, 47 (2016)

  47. 47.

    , , & Observational selection effects and the M–σ relation. Astrophys. J. 738, 17 (2011)

  48. 48.

    et al. 2MASS Extended Source Catalog: overview and algorithms. Astron. J. 119, 2498–2531 (2000)

  49. 49.

    et al. The ATLAS3D project: I. A volume-limited sample of 260 nearby early-type galaxies: science goals and selection criteria. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 413, 813–836 (2011)

Download references

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) grants AST-1616598 and AST-1616710, from a Marie Curie Global Fellowship, from SFB 881 ‘The Milky Way System’ (subprojects A7 and A8) funded by the German Research Foundation, and from grants AYA2016-77237-C3-1-P and AYA2014-56795-P from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO). G.v.d.V. acknowledges funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 724857 (Consolidator Grant ArcheoDyn). A.J.R. was supported as a Research Corporation for Science Advancement Cottrell Scholar. I.M.-N. thanks the TRACES group and M. Mezcua for their comments, R. van den Bosch for making the HETMGS data publicly available and A. Boecker for her help.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. University of California Observatories, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA

    • Ignacio Martín-Navarro
    •  & Aaron J. Romanowsky
  2. Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie, Konigstuhl 17, D-69117 Heidelberg, Germany

    • Ignacio Martín-Navarro
    • , Jean P. Brodie
    •  & Glenn van de Ven
  3. Department of Physics and Astronomy, San José State University, One Washington Square, San Jose, California 95192, USA

    • Aaron J. Romanowsky
  4. Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, E-38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain

    • Tomás Ruiz-Lara
  5. Departamento de Astrofísica, Universidad de La Laguna, E-38200 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain

    • Tomás Ruiz-Lara
  6. European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany

    • Glenn van de Ven

Authors

  1. Search for Ignacio Martín-Navarro in:

  2. Search for Jean P. Brodie in:

  3. Search for Aaron J. Romanowsky in:

  4. Search for Tomás Ruiz-Lara in:

  5. Search for Glenn van de Ven in:

Contributions

I.M.-N. derived the star formation histories along with T.R.-L. and wrote the text. J.P.B., A.J.R., T.R.-L. and G.v.d.V. contributed to the interpretation and analysis of the results.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ignacio Martín-Navarro.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks D. Rosario, J. Trump and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.