Scientists catch supermassive black hole burping - twice

Pat Wise
January 13, 2018

This simply means that one of them was ejected to one side of the black hole, and the other one, which is actually bigger and more compact, got ejected 100 thousand year later, in the other direction. Images show the 800 million year old object, surrounded up and down by two distinct clouds of gas and radiation, which are only about 100 thousand years apart in age.

"There are 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".

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 behavior seems to confirm the fast cycle predicted by astronomer theories about black holes.

"Fortunately, we happened to observe [J1354] at a time when we could clearly see evidence for both events", Comerford added in the statement.

Details of Comerford and her team's study were published in the The Astrophysical Journal and presented January 11 at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.

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Julie Comerford, a scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, stated that right now the supermassive black hole is in the sleep phase of the feats-burp-nap cycle and it's just waiting for its next meal.

To catch this astronomical belching in progress, the CU team used observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, along with the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. The Apache Point facility is owned by the Astrophysical Research Consortium, a group of 10 USA research institutions that includes CU Boulder. The black holes are mostly dormant but act to suck in gas when it gets close enough. The researchers suggest that material from the companion galaxy gravitated towards the centre of J1354, providing it with huge amounts of extra material to eat. The black hole swallows some of this gas while expelling another portion of it in an outflow of particles. The answer lies in a companion galaxy that is linked to J1354 by streams of stars and gas, said Comerford. 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.

Well, nearly nothing. As it turns out, supermassive black holes aren't always thorough when gobbling up star systems and solar debris.

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