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Hitomi Spacecraft Able to Determine Roles of Black Holes in Controling Interstellar Dust Before Going Haywire

Jul 07, 2016 09:04 AM EDT

Just before spinning to its destruction, Japanese Space Agency's (JAXA) Hitomi x-ray space satellite was able to provide the role of supermassive black holes in the prevention of new star formation in galaxy clusters.

The discovery was described in a paper published in the journal Nature. According to the paper, supermassive black holes stir the gas within galaxy clusters halting the formation of new stars.

Before its demise, Hitomi was observing the motion of gas in the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster. The Perseus galaxy cluster spans about 11.6 million light years across with more than 660 trillion times the mass of Sun. It is considered to be among the largest known structure in the universe, located about 240 million light years away from Earth. It is believe that the galaxy clusters are also containing clouds of hot plasma and halo of invisible dark matter, in addition to usual materials found in galaxies.

According to a report from, the plasma in the Perseus galaxy clusters is being kept hot by black holes. When gas got sucked into the black hole, it releases enormous amount of energy creating a bubble. In turn, the bubble drags gas from the center of the cluster. As the bubble continuously stirs up the gas, it will be heated. This process prevents the gas from cooling down, thus, preventing the formation of new stars.

 However, researchers were surprised when Hitomi detected that spinning motion of the gas is not as turbulent as they have predicted. The gas only travel about 100 miles per second, which is considered to be slow, considering the how the images looked in X-ray images.

For the meantime, researchers were only relying on the measurement made by the Hitomi before it malfunctioned. The destruction of Hitomi in space prevented the researchers to make measurement in other clusters and galaxies, making it more difficult to understand how the feedback process operates.

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