Scientists have discovered the composition of the powerful galactic wind coming from supermassive black holes.
These winds are believed to have a direct effect on how black holes impact the development of the galaxies around them, but scientists do not yet fully understood how.
Now researchers at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) in the Canary Islands have developed a theory supported by their analysis of the gas in the galactic winds blown about by the black holes.
Their findings provide key evidence about how the supermassive black holes in the centres of many galaxies impact the development of their neighbourhoods.
When black holes grow rapidly it is because they consume the material in the galaxy at a high rate, which also causes the generation of enormous galactic winds.
The gas in the winds produced by these black holes, known as active galactic nuclei (AGN), can reach velocities of thousands of kilometres per second.
Particularly powerful AGN’s generate quasars which are capable of obliterating the material at the centre of galaxies and preventing new stars from forming there.
But how they manage to do this has not been known, until the IAC researchers used the EMIR infrared spectrograph at the IAC’s new telescope to figure out what these winds were made of.
EMIR has allowed us to study the winds of ionised and molecular gas from this quasar by using the infrared range, explained Dr Ramos Almeida.
This analysis is very important because they don’t always show similar properties, which tells us a great deal about how these winds are produced and how they affect their host galaxies.
The data revealed that the ionised winds is even faster than the molecular wind, reaching velocities of up to 1,200km per second.
Despite this, it would be the molecular wind which was responsible for expelling gas from the reservoirs of the galaxy – up to 176 solar masses of it every year.
However, it would be the molecular wind which is emptying the gas reservoirs of the galaxy (up to 176 solar masses per year).
New observations with ALMA will let us confirm this estimate, explained Dr Jose Acosta Pulido, a researcher at the IAC and co-author of the study.