Black Hole Nurtures Baby Stars a Million Light-Years Away


Nov. 29, 2019

Black Hole Nurtures Baby Stars a Million Light-Years Away

An image that contains a black hole that is triggering star formation across the longest distance ever seen.

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Black holes are famous for ripping objects apart, including stars. But now, astronomers have uncovered a black hole that may have sparked the births of stars over a mind-boggling distance, and across multiple galaxies.

If confirmed, this discovery, made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, would represent the widest reach ever seen for a black hole acting as a stellar kick-starter. The black hole seems to have enhanced star formation more than one million light-years away. (One light year is equal to 6 trillion miles.)

“This is the first time we’ve seen a single black hole boost star birth in more than one galaxy at a time,” said Roberto Gilli of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Bologna, Italy, lead author of the study describing the discovery. “It’s amazing to think one galaxy’s black hole can have a say in what happens in other galaxies millions of trillions of miles away.”

A black hole is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape. The black hole’s immense gravity pulls in surrounding gas and dust, but particles from a small amount of that material can also get catapulted away instead at nearly the speed of light. These fast-moving particles form two narrow beams or “jets” near the poles of the black hole.

The supermassive black hole scientists observed in the new study is located in the center of a galaxy about 9.9 billion light-years from Earth. This galaxy has at least seven neighboring galaxies, according to observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT).

Using the National Science Foundation’s Karl Jansky Very Large Array, scientists had previously detected radio-wave emission from a jet of high-energy particles that is about a million light-years long. The jet can be traced back to the supermassive black hole, which Chandra detected as a powerful source of X-rays produced by hot gas swirling around the black hole. Gilli and colleagues also detected a diffuse cloud of X-ray emission surrounding one end of the radio jet. This X-ray emission is most likely from a gigantic bubble of hot gas heated by the interaction of the energetic particles in the radio jet with surrounding matter.

As the hot bubble expanded and swept through four neighboring galaxies, it could have created a shock wave that compressed cool gas in the galaxies, causing stars to form.  All four galaxies are approximately the same distance, about 400,000 light years, from the center of the bubble. The authors estimate that the star formation rate is between about two to five times higher than typical galaxies with similar masses and distance from Earth.

“The story of King Midas talks of his magic touch that can turn metal into gold,” said co-author Marco Mignoli, also of INAF in Bologna, Italy. “Here we have a case of a black hole that helped turn gas into stars, and its reach is intergalactic.”

Astronomers have seen many cases where a black hole affects its surroundings through “negative feedback” – in other words, curtailing the formation of new stars. This can occur when the black hole’s jets inject so much energy into the hot gas of a galaxy, or galaxy cluster, that the gas can’t cool down enough to make large numbers of stars.

In this newly discovered collection of galaxies, astronomers have found a less common example of “positive feedback,” where the black hole’s effects increase star formation. Moreover, when astronomers previously encountered positive feedback, it either involved increases in the star formation rate of 30% or less, or it occurred over scales of only about 20,000 to 50,000 light years on a nearby companion galaxy. Whether the feedback is positive or negative depends on a delicate balance between the heating rate and cooling rate of a cloud. That is because clouds that are initially cooler when hit by a shock wave are more prone to experience positive feedback, and form more stars.

“Black holes have a well-earned reputation for being powerful and deadly, but not always,” said co-author Alessandro Peca, formerly at INAF in Bologna and now a Ph.D. student at the University of Miami. “This is a prime example that they sometimes defy that stereotype and can be nurturing instead.”

The researchers used a total of six days of Chandra observing time spread out over five months.

“It’s only because of this very deep observation that we saw the hot gas bubble produced by the black hole,” said co-author Colin Norman of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. “By targeting objects similar to this one, we may discover that positive feedback is very common in the formation of groups and clusters of galaxies.”

A paper describing these results has been published in the most recent issue of the journal “Astronomy and Astrophysics” and is available online.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge and Burlington, Massachusetts.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/INAF/R. Gilli et al.; Radio NRAO/VLA; Optical: NASA/STScI

Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Last Updated: Nov. 29, 2019

Editor: Lee Mohon

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November 29, 2019 10:33 pm

Does witnessing this effect of black holes at a galactic distance explain the effect of atmospheric CO2 molecules on Earth on distant H2O molecules at the oceans depths by a swirling wave action? Same-same.

Jack Okie
November 29, 2019 10:59 pm

Once again I would encourage everyone to take a serious. in depth look at Plasma Cosmology. Birkland currents are well known and investigated structures that form in plasma; their behavior explains the phenomena described in this article far better than magical black holes. Plasma Cosmology, using the characteristics of plasma investigated and understood in the laboratory, accounts quite well for quasars, pulsars, galactic rotation, spiral arms, gamma ray bursts, and the other objects we see in the cosmos. The “gas” and “dust” so often mentioned in these kinds of reports is actually plasma.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Jack Okie
November 30, 2019 1:38 am

Totally agree, too many Fudge factors in the Big Bang Gravity theory.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Jack Okie
November 30, 2019 3:25 am

Well you know what happens to hypotheses once they gain a foothold in the mainstream media. “May Have” turns to “did” and “Might” becomes “will”

Leak this to the NYTimes on background and the whole world will “Know” about Plasma Cosmology, especially if they might destroy all life as we know it as they build new and better ones. You might need a little Government funding to grease the wheels.

Reply to  Jack Okie
November 30, 2019 6:33 am

Beaware that plasma only is stable plasma after a star ignition. Before is just gases and dust.

November 29, 2019 11:12 pm

Just basic well understood physics. The only news here that it was observed in a galaxy 10 billion years ago.

November 29, 2019 11:36 pm

Does the jet have enough material to form stars when the beam finally slows down and diffuses? image

November 30, 2019 12:15 am

‘Black hole nurtured . . .’ a million light years ago. In the past.

Stephen Richards
November 30, 2019 1:01 am

9.46*10^12 Kms.

November 30, 2019 1:30 am

So called black holes are nothing of a kind, more likely to be huge concentration of mass created by collapsed galaxy. According to the Einstein’s general theory of relativity mass of a collapsed galaxy would:
a) immensely distort the nearby space into a funnel
comment image
so that to an outside observer the area appears grossly reduced, misleading observer to assume it must end up in singularity.
b) Any electromagnetic radiation mainly X and Gamma rays (temperatures are far too high to generate much light in the visible regions of electromagnetic spectrum. Due to the huge mass involved outgoing radiation would not only bend but form into a spiral trajectory so that it appears as if it is coming out of the last ‘loop’ of the spiral which is then mislabelled as the ‘event horizon’, hence the asymmetry in brightness or ‘halo’ in the ring or the surrounding ‘black hole’.

Tom Abbott
November 30, 2019 5:20 am

I didn’t see any estimate for the mass of the black hole.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 30, 2019 8:43 am

On page 15 of the paper they estimate the black hole’s mass at 3.2 x 10^7 solar masses (if I read the paper correctly).


Curious George
Reply to  Jim Masterson
November 30, 2019 9:03 am

I like the precision. 3.2, not 3.1.

Reply to  Curious George
December 1, 2019 5:28 pm

Cosmologists tend to be more precise with their precisions than climatologists who create precision with magical slight-of-hand.


Reply to  Jim Masterson
December 1, 2019 5:49 pm

And I misspelled sleight.


Reply to  Jim Masterson
November 30, 2019 12:01 pm

It is estimated that the total mass of our Galaxy is about 2 × 10^12 solar mass, but wait for it, 95% of it is dark matter, which would mean the real stuff is 1 × 10^11 solar mass, or our galaxy is 3000 times more massive than the above so called black hole.

Gordon Lehman
Reply to  Vuk
November 30, 2019 5:58 pm

Dark matter is 25% of the universe but 95% of our galaxy? We ARE truly special.

John Endicott
Reply to  Gordon Lehman
December 2, 2019 7:01 am

Sorry Gordon, but you’ve got that wrong as, according to the theory, Dark matter is approx. 85% of the matter of the universe but only 25% of the total energy density. In other words you confused the total energy density with the amount of matter.

November 30, 2019 7:31 am

“The black hole seems to have enhanced star formation more than one million light-years away. (One light year is equal to 6 trillion miles.)”

Yes, my human pea brain is officially boggled. And appropriately humbled.

Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
Reply to  pokerguy
November 30, 2019 8:40 pm

Let me put it in perspective for you. If you were to walk one mile every hour, it would take you 6 trillion hours to walk one light year.

I hope that helps.

Steve Oregon
November 30, 2019 8:08 am

With all due respect ….
The conjecture, “may have sparked” is some pretty hefty speculation resembling hypothetical guesstimation and no more.

I wonder how this confounding notion, “If confirmed”, could possible ever come to fruition?
Well perhaps 500 years from now when time travel is possible?

I may be wrong. If confirmed I apologize.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Steve Oregon
November 30, 2019 9:02 am

We already have a time machine, it’s called the UN IPCC. They want to take us back 500 years when the climate was just perfect and everyone lived in harmony with Gaia.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 30, 2019 12:05 pm

The good doctor (Who) would call it “a RETARDIS”, I’d wager.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Patrick MJD
November 30, 2019 12:08 pm

Unlike the TARDIS which appeared as a telephone booth, the RETARDIS looks like a voting booth.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Pop Piasa
November 30, 2019 6:36 pm

But it is a lot smaller on the inside.

November 30, 2019 8:39 am

Supermassive black holes come in many sizes & have different effects. A humongous one in a giant galaxy can blow all the gas & dust away and make the galaxy “red and dead’, or a rather small one like ours in the Milky Way can support some new star formation near it if gas and dust are slowly feeding back toward it (without causing it to become very active & push the material away). Then you have the situation in this article where one is blowing gas & dust away from its host galaxy but causing star formation in neighboring galaxies.

November 30, 2019 8:44 am

Something is wrong here.
The Radio Galaxy over-dense cluster has a Redshift of z=1.7 but the QSO, quasar, at the center has a Redshift of z=6.31.

See the Arxiv online, and The 500 ks Chandra observation of the z = 6.31 QSO SDSS J1030 + 0524

There the QSO has > 10^9 Solar Masses, in the range of the EHT observation of M87*.
I wonder has anyone checked the M87* Redshift against that of the galaxy`?

Either this is a blatant admission of intrinsic Redshift, or what?
Is this object in Arp’s “Seeing Red” and Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies ?
See : Factoring the Gravitational Redshift of Active Galactic Nuclei toward clarification of the most mysterious objects in the universe

Intrinsic Redshift marks the death knell of the Big Bang.

OMG that is almost as shocking as the sheer irrelevance of CO2!

G. Franke
Reply to  bonbon
November 30, 2019 4:24 pm

Thanks for the link to Robert Burton’s Ebook. Since I was a teenager in the 1950s I have never bought into the Big Bang theory. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle coined the term “Big Bang” as a derogatory comment in the early 50s. Fred lived to see much of the work described in Burton’s compilation but it is too bad he missed the last ten years.

Jack Okie
Reply to  bonbon
November 30, 2019 8:41 pm

bonbon, here’s another one:

On October 3, 2003, the galaxy NGC 7319 was measured to have a redshift of z = 0.0225. It is not uncommon for “nearby” galaxies to have redshifts below z = 1. However, a quasar was located in front of NGC 7319’s opaque gas clouds with an observed redshift of z = 2.114.

And more evidence of intrinsic redshift:

NGC 4319 and its companion quasar, Markarian 205. [Halton] Arp called attention to the fact that the lower redshift galaxy is physically connected to the higher redshift quasar. A filament between the two objects violates the measured distances because no such connection should be possible. After all, NGC 4319 (from redshift calculations) is said to be about 600 million light-years from Earth, while Markarian 205 is around a billion light-years away.

And another:

NGC 7603, a distorted spiral galaxy with a single arm, is joined by that arm to a smaller companion with a much higher redshift. Within the bright material of the arm are two other objects, each with redshifts different from the galaxy pair.


Magnetic fields are found throughout the cosmos. Magnetic fields require electric current. The filaments seen throughout space (or “magnetic ropes” as they are sometimes called) are Birkland currents (a plasma structure), well demonstrated in the lab.

We can go back and forth in the comments, but there is no way to present the body of evidence in support of Plasma Cosmology in a comment thread. I have yet to see it falsified, and not for lack of trying. The standard model, on the other hand, is in trouble. The above redshift phenomena are not the only problem. I have to agree with bonbon – it sure seems as if that part of the standard model is falsified. Do you have an alternate explanation?

John Endicott
Reply to  bonbon
December 2, 2019 7:04 am

bonbon: Something is wrong here.

And for once you didn’t blame it on a national banker conspiracy or Nixon taking us of the gold standard. You’re slipping.

Reply to  John Endicott
December 3, 2019 5:13 am

Well, Maggie Thatcher put Britain through a financial Big Bang in 1986, not exactly billions of light years ago, but when Deutsche Bank goes Boom it will be traced to their reverse takeover by Morgan-Grenfell.

Not everything that goes Bang is a Bank, but it is sitting on a ticking nuclear pile of $75 trillion dollar nominal value that could go critical anytime now.

Somehow Bankers like Booms and Busts, bailouts, which keeps us all talking about “haircuts and hairshirts.”

Something is definitely wrong with all that.

Gordon Lehman
November 30, 2019 6:09 pm

Understanding of star formation is one of the more glaring weaknesses in our cosmology, which has no shortage of weaknesses. This is an interesting discovery by NASA.

James F. Evans
December 1, 2019 4:54 am

Black hole: an object with near infinite density & near infinite small volume.

“Near infinite” can not be quantified in mathematical terms that have any real meaning.

A “black hole” is really just a word salad of speculation.

In this paper a “hot gas bubble” is properly known as plasma.

And the jet consists of plasma.

Plasma in motion is an electric current & electric currents are surrounded by magnetic fields.

James F. Evans
December 1, 2019 7:29 am

A hypothesis: stars form from bennett pinches (z-pinches), an electromagnetic phenomenon where the plasma flowing in a current is constricted & compressed by a strengthening magnetic field until a plasmoid or “knot” of plasma is collected together, becoming an anode in a galactic circuit, radiating (shining) with electromagnetic energy.

Jack Okie
Reply to  James F. Evans
December 1, 2019 10:17 am

More evidence for Plasma Cosmology: Comets.

Photographs of 81P/Wild, Tempei 1, Hartley 2, and 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and actual contact from the missions Deep Impact and Rosetta, show that comets are not “dusty snowballs”, but appear to be ordinary asteroids carrying electric charge. Here is an article with the details:

“Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality”
Nikola Tesla

Jack Okie
Reply to  Jack Okie
December 1, 2019 10:18 am

My html for the link went awry. Here is the Url sans html:

December 3, 2019 5:19 am

Unpredicted, impossible black hole not too far away :

They openly admit that even the LIGO gravitational wave sources are also too big. No one knows how they form, yet.

But where they get the “estimate” of 100 million solar sized black holes here in the galaxy, I do not know.

December 3, 2019 5:31 am

Plasma technology, z-pinch, Inertial Confinement Fusion, Trisops, all lead to us making fusion a comodity.
That is not to exclude coal, oil and gas.
As a wag noted, the stone age did not end for lack of stone. Bronze and Iron changed everything. And they depend on higher thermal flux density furnaces.
Fusion thermal flux density will change everything again – all the world becomes a mine.

The stars have a CNO, Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen cycle, but run on fusion.

I do wish the plasma universe people would look at Birkeland currents in curved spacetime.

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