ESO Science Release | VLT | MUSE | 2017 Aug 16
ESO’s MUSE instrument on the VLT discovers new way to fuel black holes
An Italian-led team of astronomers used the MUSE (Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile to study how gas can be stripped from galaxies. They focused on extreme examples of jellyfish galaxies in nearby galaxy clusters, named after the remarkable long “tentacles” of material that extend for tens of thousands of light-years beyond their galactic discs .
The tentacles of jellyfish galaxies are produced in galaxy clusters by a process called ram pressure stripping. Their mutual gravitational attraction causes galaxies to fall at high speed into galaxy clusters, where they encounter a hot, dense gas which acts like a powerful wind, forcing tails of gas out of the galaxy’s disc and triggering starbursts within it.
Six out of the seven jellyfish galaxies in the study were found to host a supermassive black hole at the centre, feeding on the surrounding gas . This fraction is unexpectedly high — among galaxies in general the fraction is less than one in ten. ...