Earliest Known Gigantic Black Hole Storm At The Dawn Of Galaxies Detected

Artist’s impression of a galactic wind driven by a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Astronomers have observed the furthest galaxy yet being lashed by the winds of its supermassive black hole. The light from this object comes from 13.1 billion years ago. That’s just 670 million years after the Big Bang and only 100 million years more than the previous record holder.

As reported in the Astrophysical Journal, the discovery was possible thanks to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The galaxy, HSC J124353.93+010038.5 (J1243+0100 for short), has a supermassive black hole at its center. This is believed to be the case for almost every galaxy in the universe and astronomers have determined the relationship between the size of a supermassive black hole and the size of its galaxies even though the scales considered are wildly different.

The key to understanding the mechanism between this connection has to do with the feeding process of black holes. When enough material gets into the inner part of a galaxy, a supermassive black hole begins to swallow a large amount of matter. Such matter will move at high speed emitting intense energy that in turn can push some of the surrounding matter outwards.

This is the start of these galactic winds, which can snuff out the formation of a new star altering a galaxy for a very long time. J1243+0100 is currently the earliest example of such winds.

“The question is when did galactic winds come into existence in the Universe?” lead author Takuma Izumi, from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), said in a statement. “This is an important question because it is related to an important problem in astronomy: How did galaxies and supermassive black holes coevolve?”

Very distant galactic wind
ALMA image of the distant galaxy J1243+0100. Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Izumi et al.

Thanks to ALMA, the team was able to study the motion of gas in the galaxy beyond the emission of the wind. It turns out that the mass ratio seen in this very distant galaxy is similar to what astronomers observed in the more recent universe, giving some important hints as to the mechanism behind the supermassive black holes-galaxies connection.

“Our observations support recent high-precision computer simulations which have predicted that coevolutionary relationships were in place even at about 13 billion years ago,” comments Izumi. “We are planning to observe a large number of such objects in the future, and hope to clarify whether or not the primordial coevolution seen in this object is an accurate picture of the general Universe at that time.”

The galaxy's central region was estimated to be roughly 30 billion times the mass of the Sun, with the black hole about 1 percent of that.


 This Week in IFLScience

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