'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.
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. We know 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.
The team said the cloud of ejected gas had already spread 30,000 light years from the black hole.
A paper on the subject was published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal. While these two events are thought to have happened some 100,000 years apart, that's actually an incredibly short period of time when we're talking about black hole activity. The Galaxy is known as J1354, which is around 900 million light years away from Earth. 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. Comerford said that these events of bubbles appear after a black hole feeding process.
The explanation for these gas-feeding events lies in a companion galaxy, which had previously collided with J1354.
Scientists using some of mankind's most powerful space observation tools - the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes - have observed the black hole at the center of a far-off galaxy spewing hot gas in two separate events.
Investigating J1354, Chandra detected a supermassive black hole, millions or billions of times more massive than the Sun, at the centre of the galaxy, embedded in a thick cloud of gas and dust.
Well, nearly nothing. As it turns out, supermassive black holes aren't always thorough when gobbling up star systems and solar debris.
The supermassive black hole at the centre of our own universe will one day arouse from its slumber with a raging appetite.
"This galaxy really caught us off guard", said Rebecca Nevin, a study co-author and doctoral student at CU Boulder. "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.
'If our Milky Way's black hole became active again, we are far enough away from it that we would be fine.