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Cold, clumpy accretion onto an active supermassive black hole

Tremblay, Grant R., Oonk, J. B. Raymond, Combes, Francoise, Salome, Philippe, O'Dea, Christopher P., Baum, Stefi A., Voit, G. Mark, Donahue, Megan, McNamara, Brian R., Davis, Timothy A., McDonald, Michael A., Edge, Alastair C., Clarke, Tracy E., Galvan-Madrid, Roberto, Bremer, Malcolm N., Edwards, Louise O. V., Fabian, Andrew C., Hamer, Stephen, Li, Yuan, Maury, Anaelle, Russell, Helen R., Quillen, Alice C., Urry, C. Megan, Sanders, Jeremy S. and Wise, Michael W. 2016. Cold, clumpy accretion onto an active supermassive black hole. Nature 534 , pp. 218-221. 10.1038/nature17969

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Supermassive black holes in galaxy centres can grow by the accretion of gas, liberating enormous amounts of energy that might regulate star formation on galaxy-wide scales1–3. The nature of gaseous fuel reservoirs that power black hole growth is nevertheless largely unconstrained by observations, and is instead routinely simplified as a smooth, spherical inflow of very hot gas in accordance with the Bondi solution4. Recent theory5–7 and simulations8–10 instead predict that accretion can be dominated by a stochastic, clumpy distribution of very cold molecular clouds, though unambiguous observational support for this prediction remains elusive. Here we show observational evidence for a cold, clumpy accretion flow toward a supermassive black hole fuel reservoir in the nucleus of the Abell 2597 Brightest Cluster Galaxy (BCG), a nearby (z = 0:0821) giant elliptical galaxy surrounded by a dense halo of hot plasma11–13. Under the right conditions, thermal instabilities can precipitate from this hot gas, producing a rain of cold clouds that fall toward the galaxy’s centre14, sustaining star formation amid a kiloparsec-scale molecular nebula that inhabits its core15. New interferometric sub-millimetre observations show that these cold clouds also fuel black hole accretion, revealing “shadows” cast by molecular clouds as they move inward at � 300 km s

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Publisher: Nature
ISSN: 0028-0836
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 May 2016
Date of Acceptance: 22 March 2016
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2020 17:58

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