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Waspie_Dwarf

Dusty Surprise Around Giant Black Hole

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Dusty Surprise Around Giant Black Hole

ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer has gathered the most detailed observations ever of the dust around the huge black hole at the centre of an active galaxy. Rather than finding all of the glowing dust in a doughnut-shaped torus around the black hole, as expected, the astronomers find that much of it is located above and below the torus. These observations show that dust is being pushed away from the black hole as a cool wind — a surprising finding that challenges current theories and tells us how supermassive black holes evolve and interact with their surroundings.

Over the last twenty years, astronomers have found that almost all galaxies have a huge black hole at their centre. Some of these black holes are growing by drawing in matter from their surroundings, creating in the process the most energetic objects in the Universe: active galactic nuclei (AGN). The central regions of these brilliant powerhouses are ringed by doughnuts of cosmic dust [1] dragged from the surrounding space, similar to how water forms a small whirlpool around the plughole of a sink. It was thought that most of the strong infrared radiation coming from AGN originated in these doughnuts.

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Outflow from active galaxy NGC 3783 (artist’s impression)

This video shows an artist’s impression of the dusty wind emanating from the black hole at the centre of galaxy NGC 3783. Astronomers knew that dust surrounded such supermassive black holes in a doughnut-shaped torus, but new observations using ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer now show that dust also lies in the polar regions. This material is pushed outwards by the black hole’s radiation, forming a cool, dusty wind.

Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser, Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Source: ESO Observatory

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