Scientists Caught Distant Supermassive Black Hole Burping

Bright light from gas the black hole is accreting. Pic NASA, ESA and J. Comerford

Image Bright light is 'burped' out by the black hole. Pic NASA, ESA J Comerford

The expert added that "black holes are voracious eaters, but it turns out they don't have very good table manners" as she compared the space behemoths to "someone eating dinner". In fact, we already have well documented instances of such plumes of gas being ejected from black holes, but the duality of this fresh discovery is what makes it special.

The scientists believe there were two burps in quick succession as the black hole consumed two separate "meals" of matter. The Galaxy is known as J1354, which is around 900 million light years away from Earth.

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".

Scientists presented their research regarding the supermassive black hole burping at the American Astronomical Society's annual meeting in Washington, DC. Now that researchers have discovered those belches, it helps them determine the pace of those processes.

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The team used observations from two space telescopes-the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory-as well as the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Apache Point Observatory near Sunspot, New Mexico. They saw a loop of gas that indicated the more recent belch.

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.

'If our solar system was very close to the black hole, though, we'd be fried'.

Black holes follow a predictable cycle of feasting, burping and then napping. "That collision led gas to stream towards the supermassive black hole and feed it two separate meals that led to these two separate burps".

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A rare supermassive black hole has been seen unleashing a huge "double burp" after feasting on stars, gas and planets from a nearby galaxy.

Even our Milky Way galaxy has had at least one burp, said Comerford. In the clearest photo of the event, the beginning of a massive burp is seen shooting out of the upper left of the black hole, while the remnants of an older burp can be spotted still dissipating below it.

'If our Milky Way's black hole became active again, we are far enough away from it that we would be fine.

Well, nearly nothing. As it turns out, supermassive black holes aren't always thorough when gobbling up star systems and solar debris.

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