Astronomers have recently discovered that a black hole they have been studying has been unleashing huge ‘burps’ of galactic proportions.
The rare supermassive black hole has been found to be letting out ‘double burps’ after digesting on a host of stars, gas and planets from a nearby galaxy.
Scientists studying the black hole known as SDSS J1354+1327, which is approximately 800 million lightyears away from our own star system, uncovered its strange behaviour and realised it had been letting off jets of bright light from the gases it was devouring twice over in the space of 100,000 years.
The research team in Colorado, who reported their findings in The Astrophysical Journal, said the ‘burps’ were shortly followed by a resting period, which they simply refer to as a ‘nap’ for the gluttonous black hole.
It’s theorised that this kind of routine is normal for supermassive black holes such as ‘SDSS J1354+1327’.
Speaking at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington DC, yesterday, Dr Julie Comerford, a University of Colorado scientist who led the study said:
Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out they don’t have very good table manners.
We know a lot of examples of black holes with single burps emanating out, but we discovered a galaxy with a supermassive black hole that has not one but two burps.
The mass in supermassive black holes is heavier than one million suns combined and could potentially fit inside a ball with a diameter about the size of the solar system.
Just like a normal black hole, it’s a region in space and time and has a gravitational pull so strong that even light cannot escape it. It picks up gases which produce an electromagnetic radiation when it gradually becomes denser and is pulled into an event horizon.
This electromagnetic radiation is then unleashed in quasars which is visible by light and X-ray wavelengths. X-rays found from the recent study were discovered by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and later the Hubble Space Telescope.
Dr Comeford says:
We are seeing this object feast, burp and nap, and then feast, burp and nap once again, which theory had predicted.
Fortunately, we happened to observe this galaxy in a moment where we could clearly see both events.
Her co-author Rebecca Nevin, claimed the supermassive black hole’s double blech ‘caught us off guard’, adding that:
We were able to show that the gas from the north part of the galaxy was consistent with an advancing edge of a shock wave, and the gas from the south was consistent with an older quasar outflow.
This kind of activity has also occurred in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, according to Dr Comerford. She noted how ‘fermi bubbles’ had been detected at the ‘extreme end’ of the electromagnetic spectrum.
These are the types of bubbles seen after ‘a black hole feeding event’ has occurred.