(Image: University of Hertfordshire)
It's the galactic equivalent of steam shooting out of a pressure cooker. For the first time, a colourful jet of gas has been spotted being forced out of a galaxy – by just the pressure of stars forming at the galactic centre.
The sighting, made by a team led by James Geach at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, UK, while measuring gas around a compact galaxy called SDSS J0905+57, shows that the energy from a growing central black hole isn't necessarily required for such a blow out to occur, as was previously assumed.
The huge amount of gas in the jet, which is being blasted out at up to 1000 kilometres per second, could form the equivalent of more than a billion suns. The loss of so much material would have a major impact on the evolution of the galaxy, causing the stellar nursery to rapidly shut down.
"We are witnessing the aggressive termination of star formation," says Geach.