Dense, swirling winds help supermassive black holes grow

By studying nearby galaxy ESO320-G030, a team of international astronomers led by CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Gorski has discovered extremely dense and powerful rotating, magnetic winds help the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole grow. This image, created by CIERA Professor Aaron Geller, depicts this phenomenon.

The process is strikingly similar to the birth of new stars and planets, which are fed by swirls of gas and dust. The new discovery provides a previously unknown clue to solving the long-standing mystery of how supermassive black holes grow to weigh as much as millions or billions of stars.

“It is well-established that stars in the first stages of their evolution grow with the help of rotating winds — accelerated by magnetic fields, just like the wind in this galaxy,” said Gorski. “Our observations show that supermassive black holes and tiny stars can grow by similar processes, but on very different scales.”

The study was published in spring 2024 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. Gorski is an expert on the evolution of galaxies. When the research began, Gorski was a postdoctoral researcher at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

Read the full CIERA news story here.

Credit: M. D. Gorski/Aaron M. Geller

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