A distant Galaxy, known as CQ 4479, has been tagged by scientists as a dying Galaxy. Although it’s still processing new stars, the supermassive black hole in its center keeps expanding.
Astronomers at the virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society estimate that the Galaxy will halt its star formation within a few hundred million years. Studying its dying moments will provide astronomers with answers about how galaxy shutdowns occur.
Astronomers theorize that galaxies die from the super-black holes in their center
Galaxies typically start out by making new stars. The stars are formed from pockets of cold gas that contract under their own gravity and ignite thermonuclear fusion in their centers. At some point, the cold star-forming fuel process is disrupted, and it begins to fuel the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core.
The black hole gobbles the gas, heating it white-hot. Radiation from the hot gas pumps extra energy into the rest of the galaxy, blowing away or heating up the remaining gas until the star-forming factory closes for good.
“How galaxies precisely die is an open question,” says astrophysicist Allison Kirkpatrick of the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “This [CQ 4479] could give us a lot of insight into that process.” she added.
CQ 4479 black hole keeps expanding
CQ 4479 is a cold quasar about 5.25 billion light-years away. Scientists have observed that CQ 4479 has about 20 billion times the mass of our sun in stars, and it’s adding about 95 suns per year.
Its central black hole is 24 million times as massive as the sun, and it keeps growing at about 0.3 solar masses per year. In terms of the percentage of their total mass, its stars and the black hole are growing at the same rate.
“You should have all your stars finish growing first, and then your black hole grows,” Kirkpatrick says. “This [galaxy] shows there’s a period that they actually do grow together.”