Supermassive Black Hole 'Burps' Twice: NASA's Chandra Makes Discovery

First Posted: Jan 12, 2016 12:40 PM EST

Astronomers have discovered a supermassive black hole that is releasing violent outbursts. The black hole is in the center of a small galaxy NGC 5195, which is merging with a massive spiral galaxy NGC 5194, which is also known as "The Whirlpool." These galaxies are found in the Messier 51 galaxy system, which is located 26 million light-years away from the earth. The researchers made their observations using the Chandra X-ray Observatory and they presented their findings at the 227th AAS meeting in Florida. This galaxy contains one of the closest supermassive black holes to the Earth that is releasing violent outbursts, according to a NASA report.

"For an analogy, astronomers often refer to black holes as 'eating' stars and gas. Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal," Eric Schlegel, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "Our observation is important because this behavior would likely happen very often in the early universe, altering the evolution of galaxies. It is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have such a close, resolved view of these events."

During their observations, the researchers found two arcs of X-ray emission near the center of NGC 5195. On the outer X-ray arc, the researchers found a slender area with cool hydrogen gas, which indicated that the hotter X-ray emitting gas obtained the hydrogen gas from the center of the galaxy. The researchers believe that this system can also aid in the formation of new stars.

"We think these arcs represent fossils from two enormous blasts when the black hole expelled material outward into the galaxy," said Christine Jones, co-author of the study. "This activity is likely to have had a big effect on the galactic landscape."

The researchers claimed that the violent outbursts are most likely produced from the dwarf galaxy's interactions, which causes gas to be channeled towards the black hole. When this energy falls into the black hole, it then produces the outbursts.

The researchers believe that this activity may have played a role in shaping the galactic landscape. 

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