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NASA Finds Burping Supermassive Black Hole

Image via Pixabay

A black hole between merging galaxies is apparently ‘burping’ large amounts of X-ray emitting gas.

The black hole is situated between galaxy NGC 5194, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, and galaxy NGC 5195, a smaller galaxy. Both galaxies are located around 26 million miles from Earth, in the Messier 51 galaxy system, which is located within the Canes Venatici constellation.

Astronomers have announced that using images, they were able to determine that two very large arcs of X-ray emissions close to the center of NGC 5195 have also left a slim region of cooled hydrogen gas. These two arcs are ‘fossils’ from two blasts when the black hole forcefully expelled gas outward, and the cooled hydrogen gas indicates that this gas was swept up by the blasts from the center of the galaxy. This proves that supermassive black holes can have an affect on the galaxies hosting them, through circumstances that astronomers call “feedback,” which astronomers believe keeps galaxies from getting too large, while still also allowing more stars to form.

For an analogy, astronomers often refer to black holes as ‘eating’ stars and gas. Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal. […] It is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have such a close, resolved view of these events.

The arcs are important because of their placement, outside the region where overflow winds are detected but inside the larger spaces found in the hot gas surrounding many galaxies. This may signal an intermediate stage in the feedback process. Estimates are that the outer arc took three to six million years to reach its current position while the inner arc took one to three million years.

Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a space observatory launched by NASA is July 1999 that can detect X-ray sources more than one hundred times fainter than any previous telescope could, captured some of the images used to make this conclusion. Astronomers also used images taken by the 0.9 meter telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, located in southern Arizona.

These results have been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.

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