The quiescent intracluster medium in the core of the Perseus cluster
© Stocktrek Images/Getty
Supermassive black holes could be controlling galaxy growth by overheating intergalactic gas.
Black holes in the centre of galaxy groups spew out vast amounts of energy thought to shake up gas within the cluster, creating turbulence that makes it tricky to calculate the cluster’s total mass. The Hitomi collaboration, including researchers from Kanazawa University, launched a satellite to measure gas motion in the gigantic Perseus cluster, 240 million light years away.
Before a technical error condemned the spacecraft, it sent back vivid X-ray images of Perseus. The space between the galaxies at its core appeared surprisingly calm, suggesting that measurements of galaxy cluster mass do not need to be corrected for turbulence after all.
The images also revealed that energy from the black hole was heating the gas to 10 to 100 million degrees Celsius. Stars can only form when the gas is cool enough to slow down and clump together, so the black hole is effectively controlling galaxy growth, the authors say.
- Nature 535,117–121 (2016). doi: 10.1038/nature18627