Super Massive Super Hot
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows that supermassive black holes at the centers of elliptical galaxies keep the galactic "thermostat" so high gas cannot cool, stunting the birth of new stars.
Astronomers have detected dust grains mingling with blazing hot gas at temperatures of 10 million degrees Kelvin (10 million Celsius) or 17 million Fahrenheit, in an area surrounding the elliptical-shaped galaxy called NGC 5044.
Similar to raindrops forming in Earth's clouds, stars form when dense cosmic clouds of gas and dust condense. Scientists suspect that if the gas surrounding a galaxy never cools enough to condense, then new stars cannot form.
Galaxies in the universe come in many shapes and sizes. Spiral galaxies, like the Milky Way, are usually active in star formation.
By contrast, elliptical galaxies are stellar retirement communities because they are made up of older stars, and don't form many new stars. Many elliptical galaxies, like NGC 5044, are found at the centers of galaxy clusters that are filled with enormous amounts of hot gas. Why the gas doesn't cool and form new stars is a subject of intense debate among astronomers.
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