An international team of scientists has delved into the heart of the Circinus Galaxy’s active galactic nucleus using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Achieving an unprecedented resolution of about one light-year, the research, led by Takuma Izumi (Assistant Professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), has illuminated the intricate dance of gas flows around the galaxy’s supermassive black hole, encompassing plasma, atomic, and molecular phases. The team has elucidated the accretion flow that feeds the black hole and their findings broadens the path for a for a more detailed understanding of the growth dynamics of supermassive black holes.
The observation results were published by Takuma Izumi et al. in Science, Supermassive black hole feeding and feedback observed on sub-parsec scales (DOI: 10.1126/science.adf0569).
Read the ALMA press release here.
Image: © ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), T. Izumi et al., the distributions of carbon monoxide (CO, reflecting the presence of medium-density molecular gas), atomic carbon (C, reflecting the presence of the atomic gas), hydrogen cyanide (HCN, reflecting the presence of high-density molecular gas), and the hydrogen recombination line (H36α; reflecting the presence of ionized gas), are shown in red, blue, green, and pink, respectively. There is an active galactic nucleus at the center. This galaxy is known to have a tilted structure from the outer to the inner regions, with the central region resembling a nearly edge-on disk. The size of the central dense gas disk (green) is approximately six light-years: this has been observed thanks to the high resolution of ALMA (see the inset for the zoom-up view). The plasma outflow travels almost perpendicular to the central dense disk.