Growing Black Holes Have Much in Common With Baby Stars

Assisted by magnetic fields, a spiraling wind helps the supermassive black hole in galaxy ESO320-G030 grow. In this illustration, the core of the galaxy is dominated by a rotating wind of dense gas leading outwards from the (hidden) supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center. The motions of the gas, traced by light from molecules of hydrogen cyanide, have been measured with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Image credit: M. D. Gorski/Aaron M. Geller, Northwestern University, CIERA, the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.

First looks would tell most observers that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) and very young stars have nothing in common. But that’s not true. Astronomers have detected a supermassive black hole (SMBH) whose growth is regulated the same way a baby star’s is: by magnetic winds.

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The JWST Peers into the Heart of Star Formation

In this image of the Serpens Nebula from the Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam) on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers found a grouping of aligned protostellar outflows within one small region (the top left corner). In the Webb image, these jets are identified by bright red clumpy streaks, which are shockwaves caused when the jet hits the surrounding gas and dust. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, K. Pontoppidan (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory), J. Green (Space Telescope Science Institute)

The James Webb Space Telescope has unlocked another achievement. This time, the dynamic telescope has peered into the heart of a nearby star-forming region and imaged something astronomers have longed to see: aligned bipolar jets.

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