Scientists captured the super-massive black hole while burping

Bright light from gas the black hole is accreting. Pic NASA, ESA and J. Comerford

It's not just us humans who get sleepy after big meals. They found that electrons had been stripped from atoms in the cone of gas and surmise that this was caused by a burst of radiation from the vicinity of the black hole.

By comparing X-ray images from Chandra and visible-light (optical) images from Hubble, the team found that in the past, the supermassive black hole in J1354 appears to have consumed, or accreted, large amounts of gas while blasting off an outflow of high-energy particles.

"We are seeing this object feast, burp and nap, and then feast, burp and nap once again, which theory had predicted", she said.

'Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out they don't have very good table manners, ' study coauthor and University of Colorado scientist Dr Julie Comerford told the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC, yesterday. In purple is data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, while Hubble Space Telescope data is in red, green and blue.

The team said the cloud of ejected gas had already spread 30,000 light years from the black hole. This would provide plenty of cosmic gas on which a black hole could feast.

The supermassive black hole at the centre of our own universe will one day arouse from its slumber with a raging appetite. Then, 100,000 years later, it ate some more, burped some more and then napped some more. This speed suggests that the black hole of Milky Way will surely going to burp again soon.

Video
       Black hole 'relativistic jets' seen wobbling
Video Black hole 'relativistic jets' seen wobbling

So why did the black hole have two separate meals? This all happened after J1354 collided with another galaxy. "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". "That collision led gas to stream towards the supermassive black hole and feed it two separate meals that led to these two separate burps", said the University of Colorado researcher. In 2010 another research team discovered a Milky Way belch using observations from the orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Observatory to look at the galaxy edge on.

The burp itself consists of a stream of high-energy particles that is kicked back from the black hole.

"These are the kinds of bubbles we see after a black hole feeding event", said Comerford.

Scientists believe supermassive black holes such as this go through a cycle of feasting, burping and then napping - and the latest discovery confirms this theory.

Astronomers have caught a massive black hole letting out a "double burp" after bingeing on hot gas. Which is why any time new behaviors are observed, the science world gets very excited indeed.

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