ONCE upon a time, a vast cloud of cold gas was floating in the void of space, a patch of inert blackness against the even deeper blackness behind. Then, as if from nowhere, a thin jet of matter streaked towards it at ultra-high speed. It slammed into the cloud, compressing its matter and triggering a firestorm of star formation. What had once been a dormant gas cloud was now a full-blown galaxy.
Is this how a galaxy is born? David Elbaz's team of astrophysicists is convinced of it. Their idea that galaxies were zapped into existence affects our story of how the universe unfolded and puts supermassive black holes, objects that were once considered esoteric cosmic curiosities, at the very heart of the picture. Supermassive black holes power objects called quasars that are capable of unleashing jets of matter at very high speeds, and it's these jets that Elbaz believes trigger galaxy formation.
If he is right, our accepted notion of galaxy formation will be turned on its head. It also has a startling implication for our ultimate origins. "It may be that none of us would be here but for the supermassive black hole whose jet created the proto-galaxy that in time became our own Milky Way," says Elbaz, at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in Saclay.
Full article at the Nude Socialist