A black hole “burp” observed in one of our neighboring galaxies is helping scientists gain a whole new perspective about these star-eating monsters.
NASA observed a black hole “burp” out an enormous amount of gases in a galaxy roughly 26 million light years away, which, by celestial standards, is a relatively small distance. Technically, the space agency’s Chandra X-ray Observatory found evidence of powerful blasts of gases produced by a supermassive black hole. This phenomenon, observed recently as well, are clear indicators that black holes aren’t just pits that swallow whatever crosses their path.
Given the fact that black holes do send out massive amounts of gas through such “burps”, they could, in fact, trigger the formation of a new star from the remnants of the ones they have so ferociously consumed. The burps were observed from one of the nearest supermassive black holes to Earth that is currently undergoing such violent outbursts, researchers said. Astronomers found this outburst in the supermassive black hole centered in the Messier 51 galaxy system, specifically classified as dwarf galaxy NGC 5195.
The two individual arcs of X-ray emissions observed near a supermassive black hole are indicators of the burp that astronomers believe are fossils “from two enormous blasts when the black hole expelled material outward into the galaxy,” reported NPR. The entire process is happening in the small galaxy that is in the midst of violent marriage. Essentially, it is merging with a larger one nicknamed “The Whirlpool,” confirmed NASA.
Speaking about the rather strange and rarely observed event, Eric Schlegel of the University of Texas in San Antonio says in NASA’s press release, “This is the best example of snowplowed material I’ve ever seen. This is clearly a way of ejecting gas from a galaxy. For an analogy, astronomers often refer to black holes as ‘eating’ stars and gas. Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal. The observation is important because this behavior would likely happen very often in the early universe, altering the evolution of galaxies. The hot gas is sweeping cooler hydrogen gas forward much like a snowplow — an example of a supermassive black hole affecting its host galaxy in a phenomenon known as feedback.”
Interestingly, the “feedback” helps in regulating the size of the black hole by “blowing gas back out through the central portion,” shared Schlegel. This phenomenon assists the black hole in retaining its overall form. If it doesn’t burp out gases, a black hole that keeps consuming stars or matter, could become so large, it would go after an entire galaxy. While the expulsion of gases helps the black hole, the “snowplow effect” could also trigger the formation of new stars.
It is very rare to see such emissions from black holes, let alone from one that is so close to our own galaxy, the Milky Way, reported the Washington Post. In fact, it was during November of last year that a group claimed to have caught the entire process, including the after-meal burp.
Despite the clearly observable “burp,” scientists aren’t exactly clear how the reaction proceeds. The inner X-ray arc that was observed is estimated to have taken about one to three million years to expand, whereas the outer and substantially larger arc took anywhere between three to six million years to expand to its current position.
Black holes burping out gases might have been a phenomenon that was common during the early days of the universe when galaxies were more densely packed. However, the same happening so close to Earth allows scientists to observe the phenomenon with a lot more clarity, reported the Christian Science Monitor. While galaxies and stars are formed by multiple reasons and processes, a “burp” from a black hole, technically referred as “feedback” could be helping in the formation of stars and assisting galaxies maintaining their sizes, said co-author Marie Machacek.
[Image via NASA]