Elements S4 • E75

This Quasar Discovery Could Hold the Key to How Galaxies Die





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Published on Aug 5, 2019

A recent discovery suggests a quasar might not be the signal of a galaxy's death.
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Supermassive black holes with up to 10 billion times the mass of our sun are thought to be at the center of most large galaxies.

As the powerful gravity of a supermassive black hole sucks in material, it can create a ring of superheated matter brighter than a galaxy itself called a quasar. Because a quasar is so bright and can be seen from so far away, quasars looks almost like stars, hence the name, which comes from “quasi-stellar radio source.”

Astronomers long thought that a quasar was the signal of a galaxy’s demise, the sign of a passive dead galaxy where no more stars will form.That’s because the magnetic field surrounding the gas can get twisted up, steering gas away from the black hole and launching it into space, shutting off the gas supply the galaxy needs to form new stars.

Quasars only last as long as their fuel source allows, and after they run out of gas a faint galaxy is all that’s left behind.

But is it possible, somewhere in that span, the galaxy gets one last hurrah? The recent discovery of cold quasars has changed how we think galaxies end their life cycles.

Find out more with Julian on this episode of Elements.

We Just Discovered How the Milky Way’s Twin Was Destroyed

Read More:
'Cold Quasars' May Be at the End of Their Lives, But They Can Still Birth Stars
"Combining all those data sources, the scientists' investigation revealed that about 10% of galaxies with accreting supermassive black holes still held onto a supply of cold gas and made new stars."

"They are thought to be powered by supermassive black holes (black holes with a mass of more than one billion solar masses) which lie at the center of massive galaxies."

Astrophysicist announces her discovery that could rewrite story of how galaxies die
"The KU astrophysicist suspected the "cold quasars" in her survey represented a brief period yet to be recognized in the end-phases of a galaxy's lifespan -- in terms of a human life, the fleeting "cold quasar" phase may something akin to a galaxy's retirement party."

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