Scientists captured the super-massive black hole while burping

Scientists captured the super-massive black hole while burping

Black holes follow a predictable cycle of feasting, burping and then napping.

The galaxy under study, known to the researchers as J1354, is about 900 million light-years from Earth.

The team, led by University of Colorado Boulder researchers, was fortunate to catch the black hole in the act, as the action has rarely been seen before as a result of gas feeding.

The black hole of SDSS J1354+1327 is particularly well fed: cosmic gas is being spewed out by a nearby galaxy, which flows in part into SDSS J1354+1327, and straight into the black hole's hungry mouth. While these two events are thought to have happened some 100,000 years apart, that's actually an incredibly short period of time when we're talking about black hole activity. These supermassive black holes are million times heavier than the Sun and scientists consider that these holes are in the centre of every galaxy.

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".

A paper on the subject was published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal. For comparison, one light-year is roughly six trillion miles.

The Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, along with observatories in Hawaii and New Mexico, were used to make the observation. The Apache Point facility is owned by the Astrophysical Research Consortium, a group of 10 US research institutions that includes CU Boulder.

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'If our solar system was very close to the black hole, though, we'd be fried'. The answer lies in a companion galaxy that is linked to J1354 by streams of stars and gas, said Comerford.

Supermassive black holes are the largest form of the space giant and are typically found in the centre of big galaxies.

It is quite common to see a black hole doing one burp, but extremely unusual to see it let rip twice in a row.

"These are the kinds of bubbles we see after a black hole feeding event", she said.

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

"This galaxy really caught us off guard", said study author and University of Colorado Boulder doctoral student Rebecca Nevin. In 2010 another research team discovered a Milky Way belch using observations from the orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Observatory to look at the galaxy edge on.

Julie also said that this galactic burp is nothing to worry about.

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