CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — The National Science Foundation`s Green Bank Telescope revealed new and enlightening information about mysterious radio bubbles surrounding a supermassive black hole.
In a new paper studying the galaxy cluster named MS0735, “We`re looking at one of the most energetic outbursts ever seen from a supermassive black hole,” says Jack Orlowski-Scherer, Lead Author on this publication, “This is what happens when you feed a black hole and it violently burps out a giant amount of energy.” Orlowski-Scherer was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania at the time and is now a research fellow at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
This is what has been discovered. Supermassive black holes are found deep within the centers of the enormous galaxies at the heart of galaxy clusters. These galaxy clusters are plasma filled atmospheres that get incredibly hot and can reach to anywhere around 50 million degrees Celsius, but they cool over time, which result in new stars to form.
Incredibly, the black hole can sometimes reheat the gas surrounding it through aggressive outbursts that form from its center. This is a process called feedback, which puts a stop to cooling and star formation.
These powerful outbursts carve out immense cavities within the hot cluster medium, pushing that hot gas farther from the cluster center and replacing it with radio-emitting bubbles. An enormous amount of energy is required to do this, which has become a great form interest to astrophysicists to where this energy comes from. By learning more about what`s left behind filling in these cavities, astronomers can begin to deduce what caused them in the first place.
The team of astronomers used the MUSTANG-2 receiver on the Green Bank Telescope to image the galaxy cluster MS0735 using the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect, which is a is a distortion of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is due to hot electrons scattered in the cluster gas.
To understand this further, the cosmic microwave background radiation was emitted 380 thousand years after the Big Bang. Around 90 GHz, where MUSTANG-2 observes, the SZ effect signal usually measures thermal pressure.
“With the power of MUSTANG-2, we are able to see into these cavities and start to determine precisely what they are filled with, and why they don`t collapse under pressure,” elaborates Tony Mroczkowski, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory who was part of this new research.
“We knew this was an exciting system when we studied the radio core and lobes at low frequencies, but we are only now beginning to see the full picture”, explains Co-Author Tracy Clarke, an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and VLITE Project Scientist who co-authored a previous radio study of this system. These new findings are the deepest high-fidelity SZ imaging yet of the thermodynamic state of cavities in a galaxy cluster, reinforcing previous discoveries.
In contrast to earlier research, new images produced by the Green Bank Telescope has the possibility that the pressure support within the bubbles could be more refined than previously thought, mixing both thermal and non-thermal components. The team also incorporated existing X-ray observations from NASA`s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which provided a complementary view of the gas seen by MUSTANG-2.
“This work will help us better understand the physics of galaxy clusters, and the cooling flow feedback problem that has vexed many of us for some time,” concluded Orlowski-Scherer.
Future observations across multiple frequencies can help establish a more precise reading of how black hole eruptions form.