ScienceShot: Built by Black Holes?

Scientists have long speculated that supermassive black holes, which have large gravitational fields and are suspected to reside in the centers of many large galaxies, disrupt nearby clouds of dust and gas, thereby hindering the formation of new stars. But new images of the galaxy Centaurus A (left) taken with cameras onboard the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that black holes can play a constructive role as well, researchers report in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. A close-up of a 3000-light-year-long filament of ionized gas in the galaxy (green smudges at right, and boxed area at left) reveals a cluster of young stars (bright, blue-white dots at bottom) at the end of the filament nearest the galaxy's central black hole. The researchers suggest that those fledgling stars, estimated to be less than 10 million years old, formed when a jet of material driven from the black hole slammed into the gas cloud, compressing and heating it to the point where the stars ignited.

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