A Galaxy-Scale Fountain of Cold Molecular Gas Pumped by a Black Hole

Grant R. Tremblay, Françoise Combes, J. B. Raymond Oonk, Helen R. Russell, Michael A. McDonald, Massimo Gaspari, Bernd Husemann, Paul E. J. Nulsen, Brian R. McNamara, Stephen L. Hamer, Christopher P. O'Dea, Stefi A. Baum, Timothy A. Davis, Megan Donahue, G. Mark Voit, Alastair C. Edge, Elizabeth L. Blanton, Malcolm N. Bremer, Esra Bulbul, Tracy E. ClarkeLaurence P. David, Louise O. V. Edwards, Dominic A. Eggerman, Andrew C. Fabian, William R. Forman, Christine Jones, Nathaniel Kerman, Ralph P. Kraft, Yuan Li, Meredith C. Powell, Scott W. Randall, Philippe Salomé, Aurora Simionescu, Yuanyuan Su, Ming Sun, C. Megan Urry, Adrian N. Vantyghem, Belinda J. Wilkes, John A. ZuHone

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We present Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer observations of the brightest cluster galaxy in Abell 2597, a nearby (z = 0.0821) cool core cluster of galaxies. The data map the kinematics of a three billion solar mass filamentary nebula that spans the innermost 30 kpc of the galaxy's core. Its warm ionized and cold molecular components are both cospatial and comoving, consistent with the hypothesis that the optical nebula traces the warm envelopes of many cold molecular clouds that drift in the velocity field of the hot X-ray atmosphere. The clouds are not in dynamical equilibrium, and instead show evidence for inflow toward the central supermassive black hole, outflow along the jets it launches, and uplift by the buoyant hot bubbles those jets inflate. The entire scenario is therefore consistent with a galaxy-spanning "fountain," wherein cold gas clouds drain into the black hole accretion reservoir, powering jets and bubbles that uplift a cooling plume of low-entropy multiphase gas, which may stimulate additional cooling and accretion as part of a self-regulating feedback loop. All velocities are below the escape speed from the galaxy, and so these clouds should rain back toward the galaxy center from which they came, keeping the fountain long lived. The data are consistent with major predictions of chaotic cold accretion, precipitation, and stimulated feedback models, and may trace processes fundamental to galaxy evolution at effectively all mass scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2018

Bibliographical note

31 pages, 19 figures. Accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal


  • astro-ph.GA
  • galaxies: clusters: general
  • galaxies: star formation
  • galaxies: clusters: individual (Abell 2597)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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