Big Black Holes Mean Bad News for Stars

Big Black Holes Mean Bad News for Stars

This diagram illustrates research from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer showing that black holes - once they reach a critical size - can put the brakes on new star formation in elliptical galaxies.

In this graph, galaxies and their supermassive black holes are indicated by the drawings (the black circle at the center of each galaxy represents the black hole). The relative masses of the galaxies and their black holes are reflected in the sizes of the drawings. Blue indicates that the galaxy has new stars, while red means the galaxy does not have any detectable new stars.

The Galaxy Evolution Explorer observed the following trend: the biggest galaxies and black holes (shown in upper right corner) are more likely to have no observable star formation (red) than the smaller galaxies with smaller black holes. This is evidence that black holes can create environments unsuitable for stellar birth.

The white line in the diagram illustrates that, for any galaxy no matter what the mass, its black hole must reach a critical size before it can shut down star formation.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyle (SSC)

Release Date

August 23, 2006

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