Today’s Video of the Day from NASA Goddard reveals that black holes can actually help stimulate star formation. While black holes are known for overpowering and shredding stars, it turns out that they can also feed the dense clouds that give birth to stars.
In the dwarf starburst galaxy Henize 2-10, images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope show a gas outflow stretching from the black hole to a bright star birth region. NASA compares the powerful outflow to an umbilical cord that triggers the formation of clusters of stars.
Amy Reines published the first evidence of a black hole in Henize 2-10 in 2011. She is the principal investigator on the new Hubble observations, which are published in the journal Nature.
“Ten years ago, as a graduate student thinking I would spend my career on star formation, I looked at the data from Henize 2-10 and everything changed,” said Reines.
“From the beginning I knew something unusual and special was happening in Henize 2-10, and now Hubble has provided a very clear picture of the connection between the black hole and a neighboring star forming region located 230 light-years from the black hole.”
The researchers say that this is the opposite effect of what’s seen in larger galaxies, where material falling toward the black hole is whisked away by surrounding magnetic fields. In this case, gas clouds are heated far too much to cool back down and form stars. The less-massive black hole in Henize 2-10 has a gentler outflow that compresses the gas just enough to initiate new star formation.
“At only 30 million light-years away, Henize 2-10 is close enough that Hubble was able to capture both images and spectroscopic evidence of a black hole outflow very clearly,” said study lead author Zachary Schutte. “The additional surprise was that, rather than suppressing star formation, the outflow was triggering the birth of new stars.”
Video Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ Paul Morris: Lead Producer
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By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer