Artist's impression of a black hole wind
This image shows an artistic representation of an active supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy. Active black holes feed on the surrounding gas through a disc (orange), but also cast part of the material away through powerful winds (blue).
Such black-hole driven winds can trigger the outflow of large amounts of molecular gas in the interstellar material of the host galaxy (red), eventually sweeping away most of the galaxy's reservoir of 'star-making' gas and possibly bringing an end to star formation on a galactic scale.
The first direct evidence supporting this feedback scenario was made possible by combining far-infrared observations from ESA's Herschel space observatory, which detected large-scale outflows of molecular gas in the galaxy IRAS F11119+3257, with X-ray data from the Japanese/US Suzaku X-ray observatory, which could sense the winds close to the black hole. The multi-wavelength aspect of this study was crucial to linking what happens in the vicinity of the black hole and its global effect on the galaxy as a whole.