Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Black holes turn up the heat for the Universe

15.05.2012
HITS astrophysicists discover a new heating source in cosmological structure formation

So far, astrophysicists thought that super-massive black holes can only influence their immediate surroundings. A collaboration of scientists at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and in Canada and the US now discovered that diffuse gas in the universe can absorb luminous gamma-ray emission from black holes, heating it up strongly.


A supermassive black hole is surrounded by a dust ring (torus). The collapse of gas onto the black hole launches an energetic jet of matter and radiation, which is transported over cosmological distances. A jet that is pointing into our direction is called a "blazar". copyright: ESA/NASA, the AVO project and Paolo Padovani


Simulated line forest of a quasar spectrum. The blue spectrum represents a universe without blazar heating, the red one a universe with blazar heating. It is evident that the additional heating process ionizes neutral hydrogen, implying less absorption of the UV light emitted by the quasar. Picture: HITS

This surprising result has important implications for the formation of structures in the universe. The results have just been published in "The Astrophysical Journal“ and „Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society”.

Every galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole at its center. Such black holes can emit high-energy gamma rays and are then called blazars. Whereas other radiation such as visible light and radio waves traverses the universe without problems, this is not the case for high-energy gamma rays. This particular radiation interacts with the optical light that is emitted by galaxies, transforming it into the elementary particles electrons and positrons.

Initially, these elementary particles move almost at the speed of light. But as they are slowed down by the ambient diffuse gas, their energy is converted into heat, just like in other braking processes. As a result, the surrounding gas is heated efficiently. In fact, the temperature of the gas at mean density becomes ten times higher, and in underdense regions more than one hundred times higher than previously thought.

A Journey into the Cosmic Youth

"Blazars rewrite the thermal history of the universe", emphasizes Dr. Christoph Pfrommer (HITS), one of the authors. But how can this idea be tested? In the optical spectra of quasars there is a plethora of lines, called the "line forest". The forest originates from the absorption of ultra-violet light by neutral hydrogen in the young Universe. If the gas becomes hotter, weak lines in the forest are broadened. This effect represents an excellent opportunity to measure temperatures in the early Universe, while it was still growing up.

The astrophysicists at HITS checked this newly postulated heating process for the first time with detailed supercomputer simulations of the cosmological growth of structures. Surprisingly, the lines were broadened just enough so that their properties perfectly matched those of the observed lines. "This allows us to elegantly solve a long-standing problem with the quasar data", says Dr. Ewald Puchwein, who conducted the large simulations on the supercomputer at HITS.

How Black Holes Influence the Formation of Galaxies

What are the further consequences of this new heating process? The forest of lines in the quasar spectra originates from density fluctuations in the Universe. In the course of cosmic evolution, the densest fluctuations collapse to form galaxies and galaxy clusters, as observed in the local Universe. Diffuse gas that is too hot cannot collapse. Hence, the formation of dwarf galaxies is slowed or even entirely suppressed. This could be the key to the solution of another long-standing problem in the theory of galaxy formation: why do we observe fewer dwarf galaxies in the vicinity of the Milky Way and in the underdense regions than predicted by cosmological simulations?

Prof. Volker Springel, scientific group leader at HITS, explains: "The process of blazar heating is especially exciting since this single effect is able to simultaneously solve several different puzzles in cosmological structure formation." The group plans to further improve their simulation models for a still deeper understanding of the nature of blazar heating and its implications for today's Universe.

Press contact:
Dr. Peter Saueressig
Public Relations
Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS)
Tel.: +49-6221-533-245
Fax: +49-6221-533-298
peter.saueressig@h-its.org
www.h-its.org
Scientific contact:
Prof. Dr. Volker Springel
Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS)
Tel: +49-6221-533-241
volker.springel@h-its.org
www.h-its.org
The series of scientific articles:
The Lyman-alpha forest in a blazar-heated Universe. E. Puchwein, C. Pfrommer, V. Springel, A. E. Broderick, and P. Chang, 2012, MNRAS, in print, arXiv:1107.3837 http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.3837

The Cosmological Impact of Luminous TeV Blazars III: Implications for Galaxy Clusters and the Formation of Dwarf Galaxies. C. Pfrommer, P. Chang, and A. E. Broderick, 2012, ApJ, in print, arXiv:1106.5505 http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.5505

The Cosmological Impact of Luminous TeV Blazars II: Rewriting the Thermal History of the Intergalactic Medium. P. Chang, A. E. Broderick, and C. Pfrommer, 2012, ApJ, in print, arXiv:1106.5504 http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.5504

The Cosmological Impact of Luminous TeV Blazars I: Implications of Plasma Instabilities for the Intergalactic Magnetic Field and Extragalactic Gamma-Ray Background. A. E. Broderick, P. Chang, and C. Pfrommer, 2012, ApJ, in print, arXiv:1106.5494 http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.5494

Dr. Peter Saueressig | idw
Further information:
http://www.h-its.org
http://www.h-its.org/english/press/pressreleases.php?we_objectID=877

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie

nachricht First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>