The cannibalism of black holes

How black holes affect their host galaxy is an active area of research here at Durham University.

The black hole in the middle of our own Milky Way galaxy leads a quiet life. However when black holes like these are active, that story can be very different. Any material that gets to close to a black hole is inevitably swallowed via a process called accretion, and in doing so a tremendous amount of energy is released. So much energy in fact, that the environment of the galaxy around them can be drastically altered. In the most extreme cases this process can be so violent that it completely shuts down the galaxy’s ability to form any more stars; that galaxy is then dead.

Is the fate of every galaxy bound to the temper of its black hole? That’s what we want to find out, and with resources like the EAGLE simulation we may be one step closer to understanding the role that these cosmic cannibals play.