Radio Jets Clearing the Way Through a Galaxy: Watching Feedback in Action

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Science  06 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6150, pp. 1082-1085
DOI: 10.1126/science.1240436

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Pushy Black Hole

The giant black holes that sit at the centers of most galaxies influence the way galaxies evolve in poorly understood ways. Morganti et al. (p. 1082; see the Perspective by McNamara) have acquired high-resolution radio images of a galaxy with an actively accreting black hole from which a jet of relativistic particles emanates. The observations show that a cloud of neutral hydrogen gas is being driven outward, possibly limiting star formation and galaxy growth.


The energy released by an active galactic nucleus (AGN) has a strong impact on the surrounding interstellar medium (ISM). This feedback is considered to be the regulating factor for the growth of the central massive black hole and for the rate of star formation in a galaxy. We have located, using very-long-baseline interferometry, the fast outflow of neutral hydrogen in the young, restarted radio-loud AGN 4C12.50. The outflow is located 100 parsec from the nucleus where the radio jet interacts with the ISM, as well as around the associated radio lobe. These observations show that the radio plasma drives the outflow and removes gas from the central regions and that jet-driven outflows can play a relevant role in feedback mechanisms.

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