Scientists Caught Distant Supermassive Black Hole Burping

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Comerford presented the findings at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society on 11 January, 2018.

Ms Comerford explained: "Theory predicted that black holes should flicker on and off very quickly and this galaxy's evidence of black holes does flicker on timescales of 100,000 years - which is long in human timescales, but in cosmological timescales is very fast".

The Chandra X-ray observatory detected a bright, point-like source of X-ray emission from J1354, a telltale sign of the presence of a supermassive black hole millions or billions of times more massive than our Sun.

It is quite common to see a black hole doing one burp, but extremely unusual to see it let rip twice in a row.

A supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy gobbled up gas - then released two "burps" in the form of blasts of high-energy particles.

In a new study, scientists have discovered a new type of huge black hole that releases not one but two massive "burps".

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

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

A paper on the subject was published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal. For comparison, one light-year is roughly six trillion miles. The Apache Point facility is owned by the Astrophysical Research Consortium, a group of 10 USA research institutions that includes CU Boulder. While even light can not escape the pull of one of these gravity wells, blacks holes do, very occasionally, "burp" back out chunks of half-consumed gas.

'This collision produced a stream of stars and gas that links J1354 and the other galaxy.

This is an image of galaxy SDSS J1354 1327 and its companion galaxy X-ray NASA/CXC/University of Colorado/J.

'The separate outbursts from the black hole are caused by different clumps from this stream being consumed by the supermassive black holes'.

A burp consists of high-energy particles that are kicked back out of the centre of a black hole.

"This galaxy really caught us off guard", said study co-author Rebecca Nevin. "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". Astronomers saw gas jets dubbed "Fermi bubbles" that shine in the gamma-ray and X-ray portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Dr Comerford said that the black hole was going through a cycle of feasting, belching and napping, before starting again.

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