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Gas blasts from black holes show surprising alignment

Pattern, if real, suggests clues to structure formation in early universe

7:00am, April 25, 2016
Hercules A galaxy

GALACTIC GEYSERS  Galactic fountains of gas, such as those erupting from nearby galaxy Hercules A, appear to be aligned among a dozen remote galaxies, a new study suggests. This image is a composite from the Very Large Array radio observatory (pink) and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Fountains of gas from a handful of remote galaxies all seem to be pointing in roughly the same direction, a new study reports. If the result holds up, it puts a new twist on how galaxies and black holes arise from the larger cosmic web, though some researchers worry that the alignment might just be a chance occurrence.

Out of a group of 64 galaxies that are blasting out radio waves, about a dozen are spewing jets of gas that are roughly aligned with one another, astronomers report in the June 11 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters. The galactic geysers are powered by supermassive black holes whose magnetic fields launch some infalling debris into intergalactic space. If the geysers are aligned, that means the black holes are all spinning in the same direction. And that means these galaxies, which are spread over roughly a hundred million light-years, might all have been

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