Assistant professor Julie Comerford, who led the study, said that while astronomers have predicted that black holes could burp out light as a result of gas-feeding events, this is one of the few times one has been caught in the act. The scientists got the information about the double burping massive black hole by analyzing data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. This particular black hole has been spotted burping not once, but twice, showing just how imprecise the process of being gobbled up by a black hole can become when a lot of matter is pouring into one all at once.
So, why did this black hole get seconds after its dinner? There is no escape from the crushing embrace of one of these dark monsters, and nothing that enters a black hole's orbit will ever be free again.
As per the study, the very large black hole letting out double burp is situated at the center of a galaxy which is nearly 800-million light-years away from Earth. They found that electrons had been stripped from atoms in the cone of gas and surmise that this was caused by a burst of radiation from the vicinity of the black hole. This is strong evidence that accreting black holes can switch their power output off and on again over timescales that are short compared to the 13.8-billion-year age of the universe.
"We are seeing this object feast, burp and nap, and then feast, burp and nap once again, which theory had predicted", she said.
"Fortunately, we happened to observe [J1354] at a time when we could clearly see evidence for both events", Comerford added in the statement.
"There's a stream of stars and gas connecting these two galaxies".
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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. This would provide plenty of cosmic gas on which a black hole could feast.
"This galaxy really caught us off guard", said study author and University of Colorado Boulder doctoral student Rebecca Nevin.
Our Milky Way galaxy's supermassive black hole has had at least one burp.
This energy is released in quasars that are seen visible light and X-ray wavelengths. But when the areas around supermassive black holes emit light stemming from feeding episodes, they are known as quasars, said Comerford of CU Boulder's Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences. The Apache Point facility is owned by the Astrophysical Research Consortium, a group of 10 US research institutions that includes CU Boulder.
A paper on the subject was published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.
'Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out they don't have very good table manners, ' study coauthor and University of Colorado scientist Dr Julie Comerford told the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC, yesterday.