When a younger galaxy blazes to life, stars are formed at an impressively rapid rate. However, this star production eventually completely comes to a stop and for a long time, researchers did not know why. Now, according to a study released by NATURE, researchers may have honed in on their reason and it has everything to do with phenomena known as supermassive black holes. Supermassive black holes, as it turns out, are not only integral to the formation of stars — but they are necessary for the formation of stars in the largest of galaxies.
Within every single massive galaxy in existence, there is a supermassive black hole right in the dead center of it. These supermassive black holes are found by monitoring gravitational effects on all of the stars within the galaxy as well as through a concept called ‘energetic radiation’. by way of the active galactic nucleus. Researchers have long looked to these supermassive black holes as integral in the cooling down of a galaxy which would naturally lead to several other byproducts — including the disruption of star formation.
Jean Brodie is one of the lead researchers behind the latest supermassive black hole study released by Nature. Brodie works as an Astronomy Professor and Astrophysics Professor at UC Santa Cruz and she is cited as the co-author of the study. Brodie says of their work, “We’ve been dialing in the feedback to make the simulations work out, without really knowing how it happens.” Brodie is talking about the research and experiments that they have been simulating in order to find what could be causing stars to quit forming. Brodie goes on to say, “This is the first direct observational evidence where we can see the effect of the black hole on the star formation history of the galaxy.”
Ignacio Martin-Navarro is the lead author of the paper and he is a researcher at UC Santa Cruz, as well. Martin-Navarro and his team have been centrally focused on massive galaxies and star formations and this paper represents a huge boost in their research. Throughout the paper, the team relied on spectroscopy in order to measure wavelength readings. They also used computer simulations in order to shift through this data in order to come to more accurate conclusions. What they found, fundamentally, was that as the supermassive black hole controlled the influx of extraneous gas and heat, stars quit forming thus leading to a stable galaxy.