The Oldest Galactic Storm

13.1 billion years ago a monstrous storm took place in the galaxy J1243+0100. The supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy fired off matter at a blistering speed of 500 kilometers per second and the shockwave shook the galaxy.


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Image by VictorianLady from Pixabay

Supermassive black holes from the early Universe continue to taunt us. Even the fact they exist laughs at our theories. But they can truly get things rolling. Recently, the Chilean radiotelescope array ALMA discovered a truly titanic galactic storm caused by a supermassive black hole about 13.1 billion years ago. This makes it the oldest known such event and also proof that black holes affect the evolution of galaxies almost since the very dawn of the Universe.

Most galaxies have supermassive black holes. Their mass is in the hundreds of thousands, millions, or even billions of Suns. An interesting fact you can tell to your friends is that the mass of these black holes tends to be proportional to the mass of the center of the galaxy it sits in. This essentially means that as galaxies grow so do their supermassive black holes. But one big question is how do they interact.

One way we know of is galactic storms. The thing is – sometimes, supermassive black holes eject and move a lot of matter in their surroundings. This matter gets accelerated to insane energies and spreads away from the supermassive black hole. At the same time, it produces a lot of radiation and pushes matter away from the supermassive black hole. That’s what a galactic storm is.

Takuma Izumi from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and his colleagues were researching since when galactic storms appear in the Universe. First, they used the Japanese satellite Subaru and found over 100 galaxies with a nice supermassive black hole that were in the early Universe. Then they attacked them with the radiotelescopes of the ALMA array which is amazing for observing the movement of gas in galaxies.

When they observed the galaxy J1243+0100 they found the gases in it to move at an incredible speed of 500 kilometers per second. That had to be one hell of a galactic storm as it blew almost all the material needed to create new stars from the galaxy. At the same time, the researchers calculated the mass of the central area of the galaxy – about 30 billion Suns. The mass of its supermassive black hole is only about 1 % of this mass yet the ratio is almost exactly the same in modern galaxies.

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