Astronomers were shocked to find a black hole "burping" out gases after it consumed matter in a nearby galaxy.
NASA researchers working at the Chandra X-ray Observatory have made a stunning discovery. According to a report from ABC News, astronomers have spotted a super-massive black hole “burping” out gases after it swallowed up matter in a nearby galaxy.
Researchers believe that the discovery can offer new insights into the way the universe formed and evolved over time. The finding may partially solve the mystery of what happens to matter when it is swallowed by a black hole.
According to Eric Schlegel from the University of Texas in San Antonio, the study’s lead author, this is the first time astronomers have witnessed a black hole “burping” after swallowing stars.
Schlegel says that the finding is important because this type of behavior would have likely occurred in the early universe, when stars formed and collapsed much more frequently than they do in the present. The burping black hole may have been common in the first days of the universe, but to view the phenomenon at such a close distance is a unique discovery.
The cosmic burp occurred in the supermassive black hole found in the tiny galaxy known as NGC 5159. Scientists think that as gas funnels in toward the center of the black hole, it generates enough energy to shoot some back out into space.
According to study co-author Marie Machacek from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the feedback loop observed helps keep galaxies from growing too large. The discovery also reveals that black holes aren’t just voracious consumers of any and all matter that comes their way; they can also help create new stars.
The burping black hole is the latest in a string of stellar discoveries that were given human characteristics; astronomers have also found stars sneezing, detected “screams” coming from the center of the Milky Way, and witnessed dead stars feasting on the energy of their active neighbors. NASA even released an image of two galaxies that aligned in the sky to form the shape of a face last February.
A press release from NASA outlining the details of the recent discovery can be found here.