Some galaxies contain supermassive black holes that are voracious eaters, consuming gas, dust and anything else that strays too close, including light. In their feeding frenzy, these behemoths generate a lot of energy in the cores of their host galaxies, dazzling the cosmos with powerful radiation. Our galaxy's central supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, is a sleeping pussycat in comparison.
These throbbing galactic hearts are known as "active galactic nuclei," or AGN, and, in new research published online in the journal Nature on Sept. 27, an international group of researchers have upended a bedrock theory (the unified theory) that astronomers thought characterized these AGN. The research could help us to better understand how galaxies and supermassive black holes evolved with one another.