Astronomers have discovered the galaxy NGC 1068, in the center of which, where there is a supermassive black hole, something completely strange is observed. Some of the clouds that are in the immediate vicinity of the black hole rotate in one direction, and the other part in the opposite direction. And scientists hope that finding out the reasons that influenced the formation of two counter-rotating rings from the clouds will allow them to solve one long-standing cosmological mystery.
Under ordinary conditions, black holes drag dust, gas, and other matter from space so that as they approach each other, these flows spin in spirals that always move in the same direction. But in the galaxy NGC 1068, located at a distance of 47 million light years from Earth, the situation, as can be understood from the above, is completely different. We note that the massive clouds of dust and gas covering the center of the galaxy made it difficult to detect a strange phenomenon earlier. And only thanks to the capabilities of the relatively new ALMA telescope, scientists managed to break through the thickness of the clouds and see the area immediately adjacent to the black hole.
The inner gas disk extends 2 to 4 light years from the black hole, spinning in the same direction that the entire galaxy NGC 1068 rotates. The second disk is much wider, it starts at 4 and ends at 22 light years from black hole, but it differs from the first in that it rotates in the opposite direction.
This type of counter-rotation of parts of matter is extremely rare, but is found in galaxies. And this case is distinctive in that the counter-rotation appeared so close to the center and on such a huge scale. Usually, this all happens with stars and other matter at the edges of galaxies, thousands of light years from the central part, and the reasons for all this are, as a rule, the consequences of collisions of galaxies. It is likely that the galaxy NGC 1068 also received its unusual center as a result of the collision, the ring rotating in the opposite direction can be the remains of a captured tiny galaxy or huge gas clouds attracted from the outside.
Most interesting is that the study of the galaxy NGC 1068 can be of great importance for solving another cosmological mystery. We have already spoken about this secret on the pages of our site more than once and it consists in the discovered super-supermassive holes, moreover, at such a distance from the Earth that we now see them as they were already literally in the “first years” of the existence of the Universe. And the secret is how these black holes were able to gain such mass in a very short period of time?
“Counter-rotating gas flows create an unstable situation in the surrounding space. Because of this, matter gets into a black hole much faster than if everything would rotate in one direction”, the researchers write, “And this may be one of the ways that black holes can grow very quickly, gaining enormous mass”.