The most active type of black holes are believed to consume so much material surrounding them that they could eventually eliminate their entire host galaxy. The process of consuming matter around the black hole is intense enough that, in some instances, it creates a highly energetic object called a quasar that is one of the brightest objects in the universe. Researchers have discovered a galaxy that survives the ravenous black hole at its center by creating new stars.
The galaxy creates about 100 sun-sized stars each year. The discovery was made using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, a telescope on an airplane. The research shows scientists that the growth of active black holes doesn’t stop star birth instantaneously, which does go against scientific predictions. The discovery is causing scientists to rethink theories on how galaxies evolve.
The galaxy in question is 5.25 billion light-years away and is called CQ4479. A special type of quasar lies in its core called a “cold quasar.” This type of quasar and black hole is consuming material from its host galaxy, but the quasar’s intense energy hasn’t destroyed all of the cold gas. With cold gas still being present in abundance, stars keep forming, and the galaxy lives on.
The study marks the first time researchers have had a detailed look at a cold quasar giving the ability to directly measure the blackhole growth, start birthrate, and how much cold gas remains in the galaxy. Researchers say if the quasar’s growth and the galaxy continues, the blackhole and the number of stars around it would triple in mass before the galaxy reaches the end of its life.
Observing quasars is difficult because they produce so much energy they typically outshine everything around them, making it difficult to observe the host galaxy. The 9-foot SOFIA telescope can detect the infrared light radiating from dust heated by star formation, allowing scientific observation.