Scientists Caught Distant Supermassive Black Hole Burping

Bright light from gas the black hole is accreting. Pic NASA, ESA and J. Comerford

Image Bright light is 'burped' out by the black hole. Pic NASA, ESA J Comerford

The team was able to detect a "remnant emission" south of the centre of the galaxy which indicated there had been a black hole feasting event, while another loop of gas north of the galaxy signalled a more recent burp.

Combing images of the J1354 galaxy 800 million light-years away, they found two pools of the particles blasted from a black hole. Great plumes of gas, matter and radiation can be ejected by black holes, and in fact, scientists theorized that these "burps" ought to come at pretty quick intervals if a black hole is well fed. They also recently published their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.

Black holes, which can be a million times heavier than our Sun, are known to devour anything in their proximity.

The team used observations from two space telescopes-the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory-as well as the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Apache Point Observatory near Sunspot, New Mexico.

"We are seeing this object feast, burp, and nap, and then feast and burp once again, which theory had predicted", said Julie Comerford, leader of the study from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Scientists presented their research regarding the supermassive black hole burping at the American Astronomical Society's annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Apache Point facility is owned by the Astrophysical Research Consortium, a group of 10 USA research institutions that includes CU Boulder.

The discovery is evidence that black holes can switch their power outputs on and off more repeatedly.

This may not even be all that rare of an occurrence, if the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy named "SDSS J1354+1327" can be taken as a typical example of these hungry monsters. The telescope captured a large number of radiations emitting from J1354, shows that the black hole lies within a dense cloud of dust and gas. Comerford said that these events of bubbles appear after a black hole feeding process.

"This galaxy really caught us off guard", said Rebecca Nevin, a study co-author and doctoral student at CU Boulder. Researchers said that they could see this object having meal, nap and belch and repeating these activities. Astronomers saw gas jets dubbed "Fermi bubbles" that shine in the gamma-ray and X-ray portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. She added that if our solar system was close to the black hole than it would be hazardous for us.

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