Supermassive Black Hole Unleashes Giant Burp in Space-Twice


CU Boulder Assistant Professor Julie Comerford, who led the study, said the supermassive black hole under study appears to have belched - essentially blasting out jets of bright light from the gas it inhaled-two times over the course of about 100,000 years. Astronomers have found evidence of such black holes at the heart of most large galaxies, including our own Milky Way.

The black hole in question, known as J1354, is situated about 800 million light years from Earth and was studied using data captured by Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray observatory, the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Apache Point Observatory. This discovery is proof that black holes can be active and inactive at different periods of time. "Fortunately, we happened to observe this galaxy in a moment where we could clearly see both events". While even light can not escape the pull of one of these gravity wells, blacks holes do, very occasionally, "burp" back out chunks of half-consumed gas.

While astronomers have predicted this type of event before, it has never been observed directly.

Comerford presented the team's findings in a January 11 press briefing at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society held January 8-12 in Washington D.C. They saw a loop of gas that indicated the more recent belch. This particular black hole has been spotted burping not once, but twice, showing just how imprecise the process of being gobbled up by a black hole can become when a lot of matter is pouring into one all at once.

Black hole
GettyUsing Ms Comerford’s analogy the black hole repeated a cycle of binging burping and napping

Just like normal black holes, they are regions of space-time with gravitational effects so strong that even electromagnetic radiation such as light can not escape from inside of them. This is strong evidence that accreting black holes can switch their power output off and on again over timescales that are short compared to the 13.8 billion-year age of the Universe.

The X-ray spectrum shows the supermassive black hole lies within a heavy veil of dust and gas, said Comerford.

"This galaxy really caught us off guard", said study author and University of Colorado Boulder doctoral student Rebecca Nevin. There is no escape from the crushing embrace of one of these dark monsters, and nothing that enters a black hole's orbit will ever be free again.

Even our Milky Way galaxy has had at least one burp, said Comerford. She added that if our solar system was close to the black hole than it would be hazardous for us.

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