Scientists spot supermassive black hole eating gas and burping; Milky Way to burp soon too?

Image of galaxy SDSS J1354 1327 (lower center) and its companion galaxy SDSS J1354 1328 (upper right). The inset panel to the right is a four-color image that combines Hubble exposures with Chandra X-ray observations NASA , ESA, and J. Comerford University of Colorado-Boulder

The universe is full of things that seem weird to a layman's eyes. Recently scientists have discovered one such thing in a distant galaxy – a burping black hole. The noisy gigantic black hole was spotted to be inhaling gas and exhaling not one but two "burps," which essentially contained high-energy particles.

The picture of the black hole's two mighty burps in a row was presented at the at the winter meeting of American Astronomical Society in Maryland's National Harbor.

"Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out they don't have very good table manners. 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," stated an astronomer from the University of Colorado Boulder, Julie Comerford, during a press meet, reported

This supermassive burping black hole is located at around 800 million light years away from our home planet. Officially named SDSS J1354+1327, the black hole appears to be gobbling gas that is getting unleashed by a fellow galaxy. These two neighbor black holes are currently trading gas and a pool of stars, following their recent collision.

Combining the images clicked by the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, Comerford and her team pointed out the exact location of the black hole and the evidence of two rising gas bubbles – the burps.

The older burp happened a lot earlier than the newer one. While the older burp got enough time to get expanded up to 30,000 light-years from its source, the newer one has just travelled a mere 3,000 light-years from SDSS J1354+1327, said Comeford.

"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," she added.

There is a theory, which suggests that supermassive black holes go through a cycle - eating, burping and after that sleeping for a certain period of time. This black hole and its burps further strengthened that theory. Although 100,000 years' gap between two burps may seem like a really sluggish metabolism; it's actually quite fast in terms of cosmic events.

The black hole situated in the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, had also burped, at least once, found out researchers. In 2010, experts got the evidence as they noticed gas bubbles spiraling upwards from the galactic core. As per the researchers, that burp might have happened millions of years ago. This event indicated that the Milky Way may burp again in the future.

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"Right now, our galaxy's supermassive black hole is firmly in the nap phase of the feast-burp-nap cycle, but it's just waiting for its next meal to come along. In the future, it will probably feast and burp once again."

However, a galactic core's burp is nothing to be scared of. "If our Milky Way's black hole became active again, we are far enough away from it that we would be fine. If our solar system was very close to the black hole, though, we'd be fried," she said.

This article was first published on January 13, 2018