Turbulence Could Divide the ‘Most Luminous Galaxy’ in the Universe: Research

Turbulence Could Divide the ‘Most Luminous Galaxy’ in the Universe: Research

Extreme turbulence in galaxy W2246-0526, also termed as the ‘most luminous galaxy’, could eject almost all the star-forming gas in it astronomers have noted. Galaxy W2246-0526 is 12.4 billion light years away and the data was analyzed from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Tanio Díaz-Santos of the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile informed that the galaxy is so turbulent that it is ripping itself apart.

The galaxy is an obscured quasar that is feeding a supermassive black hole at its center. As the star-forming gases are being sucked in by the black hole, the energetic disk of gases offers brightness to the galaxy. The light from this blazingly bright accretion disk is absorbed by the dust in the vicinity and it is remitted as infrared light later. The research paper informed that the galaxy belongs to a rare type of quasars termed as Hot, Dust-Obscured Galaxies or Hot DOGs. Only one out of 3,000 quasars checked by astronomers belongs to this class.

The quasar was first noticed by astronomers in 2015 by astronomers using NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The galaxy is much smaller in size than Milky Way but is classified as extremely luminous infrared galaxy (ELIRG). It emits 10,000 times more energy than Milky Way.


Roberto Assef, an astronomer with the Universidad Diego Portales and leader of the ALMA observing team said, "The powerful infrared energy emitted by the dust then has a direct and violent impact on the entire galaxy, producing extreme turbulence throughout the interstellar medium."

“Large amounts of this interstellar material were found in an extremely turbulent and dynamic state, careening throughout the galaxy at around 2 million km per hour,” Dr. Diaz-Santos said.

The study has been published in the last month’s edition of the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

If these turbulent conditions continue, the infrared radiation would boil away all of W2246-0526’s interstellar gas. “It is possible that W2246-0526 will eventually mature into a more traditional quasar,” said co-author Dr. Manuel Aravena, also from the Universidad Diego Portales.

The astronomers believe that this turbulence is primarily due to the fact that the region around the black hole is at least 100 times more luminous than the rest of the galaxy combined; in other quasars, the proportion is much more modest. This intense yet localized radiation exerts tremendous pressure on the entire galaxy, to potentially devastating effect.

Previous studies with NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft revealed that the galaxy, dubbed W2246-0526, is glowing in infrared light as intensely as approximately 350 trillion suns.


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