An X-ray Surprise! When Black Holes Stop Eating, Galaxies Fade Away (Synopsis)

“I’ll never, ever be full. I’ll always be hungry. Obviously, I’m not talking about food.” -Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Only a very small percentage of galaxies have active supermassive black holes. While the black holes themselves are common, they only rarely feed, gaining a huge influx of matter to accelerate and send jets and other emission out. When a galaxy does become active, they can appear in any number of interesting manifestations, dependent on their orientation relative to us.

The unified model of AGNs/Active Galactic Nuclei. Image credit: Robert Antonucci, aka Ski, of http://web.physics.ucsb.edu/~ski/skipicture-1.html.

The unified model of AGNs/Active Galactic Nuclei. Image credit: Robert Antonucci, aka Ski, of http://web.physics.ucsb.edu/~ski/skipicture-1.html.

But most galaxies, on human timescales, will either appear permanently off or on. A galaxy can turn on from a merger, accretion or just a chance encounter with a star cluster or gas cloud, but for the first time, we’ve seen one turn on and then off in great detail. As it turns out, the X-ray emissions are key to watching the feeding stop, and seeing the galaxy fade as a result.

The bright emissions extending past the edge of the galaxies are evidence of prior AGN activity, but the central black holes are too dim now. Image credit: NASA / ESA / W. Keel, University of Alabama.

The bright emissions extending past the edge of the galaxies are evidence of prior AGN activity, but the central black holes are too dim now. Image credit: NASA / ESA / W. Keel, University of Alabama.

Come get the amazing story in pictures, video and 200 words, top, on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!

One Comment

  1. “I’ll never, ever be full. I’ll always be hungry. Obviously, I’m not talking about food.” -Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
    Only a very small percentage of galaxies have active supermassive black holes. While the black holes themselves are common, they only rarely feed, gaining a huge influx of matter to accelerate and send jets and other emission out. When a galaxy does become active, they can appear in any number of interesting manifestations, dependent on their orientation relative to us.
    The unified model of AGNs/Active Galactic Nuclei. Image credit: Robert Antonucci, aka Ski, of http://web.physics.ucsb.edu/~ski/skipicture-1.html.
    But most galaxies, on human timescales, will either appear permanently off or on. A galaxy can turn on from a merger, accretion or just a chance encounter with a star cluster or gas cloud, but for the first time, we’ve seen one turn on and then off in great detail. As it turns out, the X-ray emissions are key to watching the feeding stop, and seeing the galaxy fade as a result.
    The bright emissions extending past the edge of the galaxies are evidence of prior AGN activity, but the central black holes are too dim now. Image credit: NASA / ESA / W. Keel, University of Alabama.
    Come get the amazing story in pictures, video and 200 words, top, on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!

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