The supermassive black holes located at the center of galaxies are similar in many ways to hearts, pumping out energy in the similar way our organ pumps blood. They do this at regular intervals of time, to regulate the growth of the black holes themselves, as well as to contribute to the formation of new stars.
This new findings baffled scientists who interpreted the data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to get to these conclusions. A huge number of researchers were involved in the study, including scientists from the from the University of Michigan, the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Jacobs University in Germany.
According to current belief, the gravitational field of black holes is so powerful that not even light can escape it. Supermassive black holes have masses about 1.000.000.000 times bigger than the Sun, but it was believed that they only pumped out energy in a violent way. As it turns out, they can be “gentler” too.
It was Alexis Finoguenov, of UMBC and the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany that compared such a black hole to a heart.
“Just like our hearts periodically pump our circulatory systems to keep us alive, black holes give galaxies a vital warm component. They are a careful creation of nature, allowing a galaxy to maintain a fragile equilibrium,” Finoguenov said.
“For decades astronomers were puzzled by the presence of the warm gas around these objects. The gas was expected to cool down and form a lot of stars” added Mateusz Ruszkowski, an assistant professor in the University of Michigan Department of Astronomy.“Now, we see clear and direct evidence that the heating mechanism of black holes is persistent, producing enough heat to significantly suppress star formation. These plasma bubbles are caused by bursts of energy that happen one after another rather than occasionally, and the direct evidence for such periodic behavior is difficult to find.”
“Disturbed gas in old galaxies is seen in many images that NASA’s Chandra observatory obtained, but seeing multiple events is a really impressive evidence for persistent black hole activity,” concludes Christine Jones, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.