How does matter spiral its way to the center of a galaxy and into the mouth of a supermassive black hole? A new study provides the best glimpse yet at the death spiral of material as it descends into the core of a galaxy hosting a large black hole. The study predicts that, barring obstructions, the galactic debris will take about 200,000 years to make a one-way trip through the inner regions of the galaxy and into oblivion.
An international team of scientists led by Kambiz Fathi at Rochester Institute of Technology, together with astronomers in Brazil, Italy, and Chile, measured the internal motions of gas surrounding the nucleus of the active galaxy NGC1097. Using sophisticated spectroscopic techniques with the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, the team measured the spiral motions of gas streaming inside the nuclear ring. Using sophisticated spectroscopic techniques with the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, the team measured the motion of matter streaming from the galaxys spiral arms to the heart of the galaxy. The observations zoomed in 10 times closer to the supermassive black hole than ever before, to see clouds of material within 10 light-years of the galactic core. Previous observations of this type of environment have detected gas clouds located between 100 and 1,000 light-years from the galaxy’s nucleus.
Fathi presented the team’s results at the 207th meeting of the American Astronomical Society Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C.
Susan Gawlowicz | EurekAlert!
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