Black hole caught zapping galaxy into existence?

By | December 1, 2009

. “The ‘chicken and egg’ question of whether a galaxy or its black hole comes first is one of the most debated subjects in astrophysics today,” says lead author David Elbaz. “Our study suggests that supermassive black holes can trigger the formation of stars, thus ‘building’ their own host galaxies. This link could also explain why galaxies hosting larger black holes have more stars.”

To reach such an extraordinary conclusion, the team of astronomers conducted extensive observations of a peculiar object, the nearby quasar HE0450-2958 (see ESO PR 23/05 for a previous study of this object), which is the only one for which a host galaxy has not yet been detected [1]. HE0450-2958 is located some 5 billion light-years away.

Until now, it was speculated that the quasar’s host galaxy was hidden behind large amounts of dust, and so the astronomers used a mid-infrared instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope for the observations [2]. At such wavelengths, dust clouds shine very brightly, and are readily detected. “Observing at these wavelengths would allow us to trace dust that might hide the host galaxy,” says Knud Jahnke, who led the observations performed at the VLT. “However, we did not find any. Instead we discovered that an apparently unrelated galaxy in the quasar’s immediate neighbourhood is producing stars at a frantic rate.” …

via Black hole caught zapping galaxy into existence?.

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