Study reveals the link between black holes and galaxy merger

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In a recent survey, scientists have found a clear link between the presence of super-massive black holes that power high-speed radio-signal emitting jets and the merger history of their host galaxies. It was also discovered that almost all of the galaxies hosting these jets are merging with another galaxy.

The survey was conducted by a team of astronomers to investigate the relationship between galaxies that have undergone mergers and the activity of the super-massive black holes at their cores.

The team studied a large selection of galaxies with extremely luminous centers also known as active galactic nuclei [AGNs], thought to be the result of large quantities of heated matter circling around and being consumed by a super-massive black hole.

During the research the team inspected five categories of galaxies for visible signs of recent or ongoing mergers.

The researchers found that almost all of the galaxies with large amounts of radio emission, implying the presence of jets, were associated with mergers. However, it was not only the galaxies containing jets that showed evidence of mergers.

The study made it clear that a galactic merger is almost certainly necessary for a galaxy to host a super-massive black hole with relativistic jets.

It was concluded that there are two ways in which mergers are likely to affect the central black hole. The first would be an increase in the amount of gas being driven towards the galaxy's center, adding mass to both the black hole and the disc of matter around it and the second is that a merger between two massive galaxies causes two black holes of a similar mass to also merge.

It could be that a particular breed of merger between two black holes produces a single spinning super-massive black hole, accounting for the production of jets.



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