Livermore Scientists Link Black Hole Radiation to Formation of Massive Distant Galaxies

May. 21, 2003

Livermore Scientists Link Black Hole Radiation to Formation of Massive Distant Galaxies

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- Using images from the Keck Observatory and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory astrophysicists, in conjunction with scientists from Columbia and Cambridge universities, have discovered how the release of energy from massive black holes are shaping two distant galaxies.

For years, Livermore scientists have detected black holes radiating gas through jets and celestial winds in galaxies that are forming in the early universe (2 billion years after the beginning of our universe, which is now about 14 billion years old). These jets are believed to have swept up clouds of dust and gas and triggered the formation of billions of new stars over the course of millions of years.

Now, with images from Chandra, vast clouds of X-rays have been observed coming from black holes in the center of these two galaxies. The clouds combined with the gases, seen by Livermore scientists, pinpoint how super massive black holes shape and limit the growth of extremely massive galaxies.

"This is the first discovery of X-ray emissions from these galaxies," said Wil van Breugel, co-investigator on the project, who works at Livermore's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. "It's another piece of evidence that ties into the feedback mechanism of black holes and their role in forming galaxies. It's a new idea that brings many physical processes together."

The two galaxies (3C294 and 4C41.17) live in regions of space that contain a large number of galaxies. The gravity of the dark matter, gas and galaxies in these regions will eventually pull them together and cluster, forming some of the most massive objects in the universe.

Using Keck, astronomers have recently discovered giant clouds of 10,000 degree Celsius gas that coincide closely with the largest extent of the X-ray emissions observed by Chandra.

The data collected on both Chandra and Keck will be presented in an upcoming issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and another paper to be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Livermore scientists are contributing authors to the Astrophysical Journal article.

For images, go to

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