Black holes are typically assumed to be massive, violent and hyper-destructive objects. However, a new study has found that they are just as capable of giving birth to stars as they are of swallowing them.
This is the realization astrophysicists have come to after they witnessed one black hole 30 million lightyears away spawning stars in the dwarf starburst galaxy known as Henize 2-10.
The discovery, made possible by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, is the first time that black holes have shown clear signs that they trigger star formation in relatively small galaxies, say scientists, further opening the question of what role black holes play.
In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lead scientist Amy Reines noted the strange attributes of Henize’s black hole.
“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,” she explained, reports the Independent.
Black holes in larger galaxies are known to capture dust and the material remains of stars that come too close to it, heating up gas clouds with its sheer gravitational force and creating the spectacles we’ve all seen from much larger, fiercer black holes.
However, in much smaller dwarf galaxies, black holes are far fainter and more tranquil. Rather than shredding the galactic matter that flies near it, it can instead compress gases and help form stars.
“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 Zachary Schutte, a lead author of the new study and grad student under Reines. “The additional surprise was that, rather than suppressing star formation, the outflow was triggering the birth of new stars.”
The new study may help provide insight on the formation of supermassive black holes, as well as what other black holes may have looked like in their earlier, younger stages of development.
In a statement, Reines said:
“The era of the first black holes is not something that we have been able to see, so it really has become the big question: where did they come from? Dwarf galaxies may retain some memory of the black hole seeding scenario that has otherwise been lost to time and space.”
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