Supermassive black hole eats, burps and naps

Black hole

In a unique observation, astronomers have witnessed a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy snacking on gas and then burping it up - twice. The Galaxy is known as J1354, which is around 900 million light years away from Earth. These supermassive black holes are million times heavier than the Sun and scientists consider that these holes are in the centre of every galaxy.

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.

The team of scientists utilised two different space telescopes to observe this event.

"We are seeing this object feast, burp and nap, and then feast, burp and nap once again, which theory had predicted", she said. Investigators said that they are very fortunate that they observed this galaxy in a moment where they were able to see both these events very clearly.

A paper on the subject was published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Assistant professor Julie Comerford, who led the study, said that while astronomers have predicted that black holes could burp out light as a result of gas-feeding events, this is one of the few times one has been caught in the act.

Black hole
GettyUsing Ms Comerford’s analogy the black hole repeated a cycle of binging burping and napping

For comparison, one light-year is approximately 6 trillion miles.

The Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, along with observatories in Hawaii and New Mexico, were used to make the observation. The Apache Point facility is owned by the Astrophysical Research Consortium, a group of 10 US research institutions that includes CU Boulder.

Matter is sucked into the middle of a black hole when it gets too close. The black hole swallows some of this gas while expelling another portion of it in an outflow of particles.

'The two-course meal for the black hole comes from a companion galaxy that collided with J1354 in the past, ' Nasa said in a statement.

It is quite common to see a black hole doing one burp, but extremely unusual to see it let rip twice in a row. "This new burp is actually moving like a shock wave - it's coming out very fast, and so it's kind of like a sonic boom of a burp, whereas the gas to the south shows us an older burp that happens 100,000 years earlier before that newer burp". Now that researchers have discovered those belches, it helps them determine the pace of those processes.

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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