Scientists Discover Nearby Black Hole Burping Out Gas

Using Chandra observations, astronomers have discovered the nearest supermassive black hole to Earth that is currently undergoing powerful outbursts. This main panel shows the galaxy M51 in visible light from Hubble (red, green, and blue). The box at the top outlines the Chandra image in this study, which focuses on the smaller component of M51, NGC 5195. In the inset, a pair of arcs can be seen in the Chandra data (blue) and is evidence for outbursts from the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 5195. Such outbursts are important in the evolution of the black hole and the galaxy it inhabits.
Using Chandra observations, astronomers have discovered the nearest supermassive black hole to Earth that is currently undergoing powerful outbursts. This main panel shows the galaxy M51 in visible light from Hubble (red, green, and blue). The box at the top outlines the Chandra image in this study, which focuses on the smaller component of M51, NGC 5195. In the inset, a pair of arcs can be seen in the Chandra data (blue) and is evidence for outbursts from the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 5195. Such outbursts are important in the evolution of the black hole and the galaxy it inhabits.

We at Speaking of Science love a good black hole burp. And scientists love them, too!

“For an analogy, astronomers often refer to black holes as ‘eating’ stars and gas. Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal,” Eric Schlegel of the University of Texas said in a statement put out by NASA. Schlegel is the lead author of a new study on these cosmic belches, which was presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

These blasts of matter that black holes expel, which scientists believe help regulate the size of the holes and create new stars nearby, can be hard to catch. In fact, it was only in late November that a research group claimed to have caught the entire process (the entire star meal, if you will) with belch included.

“Our observation is important because this behavior would likely happen very often in the early universe, altering the evolution of galaxies. It is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have such a close, resolved view of these events,” Schlegel said.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Washington Post, Rachel Feltman