Astronomers observe jets blowing gas out of a galaxy

Astronomers have long theorized that the supermassive black holes living at the center of almost all galaxies can have profound effects on the evolution of the galaxies in which they live.   Astronomers have now observed this in action, having discovered jets pushing gas out of the galaxy 4C12.50.  Jets such as these are produced by processes within the disks of material that swirl around supermassive black holes.  

Jet coming from the center of nearby galaxy M87 (Image credit: Hubble Heritage Team, NASA)

At the ends of 4C12.50's jets are giant blobs of gas moving out of the galaxy at 1000 kilometers per second, providing us with extremely clear evidence that these jets are capable of ejecting material from galaxies.  The material being ejected is hydrogen gas, the kind of gas from which stars form.  Therefore, by removing this gas from the galaxy, these jets have the capability of effecting how many stars can be formed in 4C12.50. 

It's pretty spectacular that the tiny region surrounding 4C12.50's supermassive black hole can impact the entirety of the galaxy.  This research is a huge step toward understanding the interplay between galaxies and their black holes.

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