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🌌Scientists has solved a star-formation mystery

🌌Scientists has solved a star-formation mystery

In some galaxies, stars form at a much slower rate than others. Why this is the case has eluded researchers for 20 years. Now we have the answer, thanks to a research team from Cambridge University, among others.

Elina Holmgren Tyskling
Elina Holmgren Tyskling

Not all galaxies create stars actively; this has been made clear thanks to observation programs such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. In some galaxies, it takes much longer than "usual" for stars to form. Why this is the case has long been debated.

A research team, including Joanna Piotrowska from Cambridge University, used simulations of our universe to find out what to expect in our actual universe when different processes slow down star formation. Eagle, Illustris, and IllustrisTNG were used.

The question was whether it is the total mass of stars in galaxies, the mass of dark matter around the galaxies, or the mass of the supermassive black hole in the center of galaxies that causes stars to form more slowly. To answer the question, an AI was used to classify galaxies based on whether stars are formed slowly or quickly.

The answer was that it’s the black hole in the middle of the galaxy that can be held responsible for the phenomenon.

"It’s really exciting to see how the simulations predict exactly what we see in the real Universe. Supermassive black holes – objects with masses equivalent to millions or even billions of Suns – really do have a big effect on their surroundings. These monster objects force their host galaxies into a kind of semi-retirement from star formation.", says Piotrowska in an article on the Royal Astronomical Society's website.

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