Hubble Finds Weird Black Hole Which Is Helping Stars To Grow

When you think of black holes, you probably think of destruction. Consuming everything in their path, they are the monsters of the astronomical world, gobbling up gas and dust and planets and stars alike. But recently, the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered something intriguing: a black hole that seems not to be eating stars, but rather helping new stars form.

Researchers looked at a tiny dwarf galaxy called Henize 2-10, located 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Pyxis, and found the black hole at the center of the galaxy seemed to be helping along in the birth of new stars. Astronomers have been debating about the black hole in this galaxy for years, and now the new data suggests that as strange as it might seem, the black hole is actually supporting star formation.

"From the beginning I knew something unusual and special was happening in Henize 2-10, and now Hubble has provided a very clear picture of the connection between the black hole and a neighboring star forming region located 230 light-years from the black hole," said Amy Reines, author of the paper published in Nature (via Hubble Site).

This is happening because of an outflow of gas from the black hole. Although black holes do predominantly absorb matter, some of the matter approaching an event horizon can be ejected and form a stream heading away from the black hole. This outflow of gas acts, according to Hubble Site, "like an umbilical cord to a bright stellar nursery". The outflow moves at tremendous speeds of up to 1 million miles per hour, hitting a dense cloud of gas that was already fostering star formation and spreading out. This spread of matter helped stars form along the outflow's path.

"At only 30 million light-years away, Henize 2-10 is close enough that Hubble was able to capture both images and spectroscopic evidence of a black hole outflow very clearly. The additional surprise was that, rather than suppressing star formation, the outflow was triggering the birth of new stars," explained Zachary Schutte, lead author of the paper.

Now researchers are even more interested in dwarf galaxies and the black holes that lie at their centers, as they could help answer some of the big questions we have about supermassive black holes and how these monsters are formed.