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May 2015: Galaxy evolution researchers quantify supernova role in gas clearing


MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy Professors Megan Donahue and Mark Voit,  joined by Associate Professor Brian O'Shea and researchers from Columbia University, Stanford University and the University of Alabama at Huntsville, have determined that supernovas play a role in keeping certain galaxies' gas abundance low enough to prevent large-scale star formation.

In earlier research, described here, they found that the supermassive black holes (SMBH) at the centers of the main galaxies in galaxy clusters can make a big difference in star formation rates not only in those main galaxies, but also in subsidiary galaxies in their clusters. The SMBH activity levels' effect on the densities and temperatures of gas clouds bore some resemblance to the production of rain in Earth's atmosphere. In certain galaxies, the gases had been heated sufficiently by SMBH encounters that they had effectively "dried up", becoming unavailable for the "rain" which allows star formation. The present research explores the role of supernova explosions in those galaxies in clearing out these heated gases, preventing them from experiencing re-cooling to allow for star formation later.

For more information, see this MSU Today article.