Data from a defunct satellite is helping astrophysicists decipher the secrets of supermassive holes and the hot plasma that surrounds the galaxies. Jim Drury reports.
The secrets of supermassive black holes are being uncovered through data sent by a defunct Japanese satellite. Astro-H was rocketed into space in February by Japanese space agency JAXA. Within weeks it disintegrated, but not before vital data was collected from the core of the Perseus cluster, a grouping of hundreds of galaxies 240 million light years from earth. A unique X-ray spectrometer on board was key. SOUNDBITE (English) BRIAN MCNAMARA, UNIVERSITY RESEARCH CHAIR IN ASTROPHYSICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO, SAYING: "This telescope allows us to measure this more precisely than we've ever been able to do before, and that gives us a very precise measurement of how much energy is being pumped into this gas by supermassive black holes and so it allows us to form a more complete picture of how galaxies evolve, how the stars and the gas that will eventually cool out like rain and form the stars, evolves over cosmic time." Researchers are particularly interested in the hot plasma and gases that surround the galaxies. SOUNDBITE (English) BRIAN MCNAMARA, UNIVERSITY RESEARCH CHAIR IN ASTROPHYSICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO, SAYING: "This is gas that has not cooled out and condensed out like rain in our atmosphere to form stars, planets, life, for example. So it's the potential for the future and we're trying to understand what the future destiny of this galaxy and many other galaxies would be." The astrophysicists think supermassive black holes have huge influence on the evolution of galaxies. They published their findings in the journal Nature in July.