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Monster black hole unleashes messy double ‘burp’

The researchers observed the supermassive black hole at the center of the milky way SDS J1354+1327 with the Chandra X-ray Telescope (pink) and the Hubble space telescope, the brands, the evidence of two “burps” of high-energy particles from the black hole. (Under the black hole) has continued to expand, suggesting that the burst out 100,000 years before the other (above the black hole).

(X-ray NASA/CXC/University of Colorado/J. Comerford et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)

The giant black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy has been spotted taking in the gas and rental of two mighty “burps” of high-energy particles, supporting the theory that such galactic nuclei go through cycles of messy activity.

Researchers presented images of the belching black hole Jan. 11 at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, showing the lingering evidence of two burps in a row.

“Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out that they don’t have very good table manners,” Julie Comerford, an astronomer at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said during a press conference at the event today. “We know a lot of the examples of black holes with one burps coming from, but we discovered a galaxy with a supermassive black hole that has not one, but two burps.” [The Strangest Black Holes in the Universe]

Supermassive black hole lurking in the center of galaxies can have masses ranging from a million to a billion times that of the sun. Although they often lie relatively dormant, they can get started immediately when the gas comes around, suck it in and rays from a number of high-energy particles in the process — the “burp.” (Note that these particles come from near the black hole event horizon, but not within the point of no return.)

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The supermassive black hole in question is located in the centre of a galaxy called SDSS J1354+1327, about 800 million light years from the Earth, and it seems to make the meals of gas released by a companion galaxy. Comerford, the team combined images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope to find out of the black hole (in the X-ray) and two emerging bubbles of gas shocked in motion by the fast-moving particles: one above and one below. The older burp happened earlier, and the bell has had time to expand to 30,000 light years from the black hole, Comerford said. The newer burp, on the other hand, is shown as a small loop which is made of 3000 light years from the black hole.

 

“These new burp is actually move like a shock wave — it comes very quickly, so it is a bit like a sonic boom of a burp,” Comerford said: “whereas the gas to the south shows us an older burp that happens 100,000 years earlier that the newer burp.”

Theory held that supermassive black holes would go through a cycle of celebrations, farmers, and then sleep for a while, Comerford said, and the spotting of these belches will help set a tempo for that process. While two burps 100,000 years apart may seem like a fairly slow metabolism, it’s very fast on the cosmic scale.

The pace matched computer models of how this interaction would work, Comerford added. In the video below, for example, of the work by Jared Gabor and Frédéric Bournaud of CEA Saclay in France, you look at a galaxy from the side, burps arise above and below.

 

The black hole Comerford type of command that gets its fuel from a companion galaxy next door — the two exchange a stream of stars and gas, after recently colliding.

Closer to home there is the evidence that the black hole in the center of the Galaxy as well, at least once: In 2010, the researchers found bubbles of gas expanding outward from the galactic core, of an event, millions of years ago. The pace of such regurgitation suggests that the Milky way will indeed burp on a single day.

“Now, our galaxy’s supermassive black hole is firmly in the nap phase of the party-burp-nap cycle, but it is just waiting for the next meal to come along,” Comerford said. “In the future, it will probably be feast and burp again.”

But that galactic burp is nothing to worry about, she told Space.com. “If our Milky way’s black hole was active again, we are far enough away from it that we would be fine,” Comerford said. “If our solar system was very close to the black hole, though, we would be fried.”

E-mail Sarah Lewin on slewin@space.com or follow her on @SarahExplains . Follow us @Spacedotcom , Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .

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