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New type of black hole activity discovered in dramatic galaxy transformation



 quasar.jpg

At the center of some galaxies, supermassive black holes with huge amounts of light as they eat up all the matter in their vicinity.


NRAO / AUI / NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks / ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO)
                                                

Astronomers have witnessed a handful of galaxies undergoing sudden, rapid transformations from weak, lethargic states to ferociously bright quasars. The incredibly fast transitions, over a few months, may have been the cause of a new black hole activity in the center of these galaxies.

The study, published in the Astrophysical Journal on Sept. 18, details the observation of six low-ionization nuclear emission-line region (LINER) galaxies caught "turning on" within a period of nine months. LINER galaxies are a common fixture in the cosmos and astronomers have long debated how they form and where their light is coming from.

Using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), a new supercassive black hole at the center gives them their unique properties, but others hypothesize star formation outside the galactic center Palomar Observatory in California in 2018, the team of investigators a number of LINER galaxies. Asteroids, astronomers another way to study mysterious LINER galaxies and any aberrant transitions.

Poring over the data, they discovered the LINER galaxies underwent transitions from their "wimpy" state to exceptionally energetic galaxies, known as quasars, much faster than expected.






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"Theory suggests that a quasar should take thousands of years to turn on, but that's not all," said Suvi Gezari, an associate professor of astronomy at

Quasars are so energetic and bright because of supermassive black holes at their center. The black holes can be more massive than the sun and they are voracious beasts, attracting gas, dust and debris to circle them with their huge gravitational pull. It's this field of circling debris and falling into the black hole that makes quasars so extremely bright. Galaxy, the Milky Way.

But why did the LINER galaxies spotted by the team switch so dramatically from wimpy to wow ? This is an all-new type of black hole activity. However, the data helps confirm that LINER galaxies can host supermassive black holes.

In addition, the team noted only gas and debris closest to the galactic center in the studied LINER galaxies what lighting up, whereas other quasars have demonstrated brightness at far greater distances from their centers.

Perhaps, they hypothesize, we've caught the moments before and after a quasar's birth. It provides astronomers with an exciting new way to map galactic evolution.

Sara Frederick, University of Maryland graduate student and first author on the paper.

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