A TEAM of scientists – including a top Southampton lecturer – has taken part in ground breaking research about the evolution of galaxies.

An international team of scientists including Dr Sebastian Hoenig of the University of Southampton have been the first to measure a gas whirlpool which can be found spinning about a supermassive black hole.

This is a milestone achievement for the team as understanding supermassive black holes can help scientists understand the growth of galaxies.

The team measured a whirlpool of a supermassive black hole from a distant galaxy, so far scientists have only been able to study one in detail in our Milky Way.

Dr Hoenig said: "This result marks a milestone in our endeavour to understand supermassive black holes.

"We achieved resolving the gas circling around a black hole on a scale comparable to our solar system in a galaxy 2.5 billion light years away.

“We were able to use these observations to determine the mass of the supermassive black hole in this quasar.

"It is clear that GRAVITY has the potential to bring a sea change to our understanding of these unique objects, how they grow, and how they influence their host galaxies."

Eckhard Sturm, lead author from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), said: "GRAVITY allowed us to resolve the so-called ‘broad line region’ for the first time ever, and to observe the motion of individual gas clouds around the central black hole.

“Our observations reveal that the gas clouds do whirl around the central black hole.”The team were able to measure the whirlpool's mass by using a new instrument called GRAVITY.

GRAVITY uses the light from four of the largest infrared telescopes on Earth which are held at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

This instrument allowed the team to observe the moving structure of gas around the gigantic black hole known as the 'broad line region.'

The team were also about to gauge its mass.

These whirlpools scientifically named as quasars were first identified 50 years ago by astronomer Maarten Schmidt.