In the 1980's, astronomers detected mysterious filaments weaving throughout the center of the Milky Way. These filaments, called synchrotron emissions, stretch hundreds light years through deep space and have remained one of the universes many enigmas since their discovery. Now, new observations may shed some light, or at least further describe, these mysterious filaments. They seem to be part of giant, radioactive black hole burps.
The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory's MeerKAT telescope recently observed two bizarre cones of radioactivity expanding outwards 700 light years from either side of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Their findings were recently published in the journal Nature. Astronomers believe that these two bubbles of radioactivity are the result of a violent explosion in in Sgr A* after it devoured a particularly large and impressive meal. In other words, they're burps.
Astronomers say that the event that caused these burps could be responsible for accelerating the electrons into making the synchrotron emissions found in the mysterious deep space filaments. It's a solid hypothesis as the filaments seem to be linked to the burps.
Physicist Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University, who was one of the scientists to discover the filaments, says:
"The radio bubbles discovered with MeerKAT now shed light on the origin of the filaments. Almost all of the more than 100 filaments are confined by the radio bubbles."
The radio burps form a nearly perfectly symmetrical hourglass on either side of the galactic plane approximately 1,400 light years in length. Astronomers say the unusual symmetry of the structure gives a clue as to how long ago the event which put a rumbling in the black hole's tummy took place. Astronomer William Cotton from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory says:
"The shape and symmetry of what we have observed strongly suggests that a staggeringly powerful event happened a few million years ago very near our galaxy's central black hole."
The eruption was likely due to a large amount of interstellar gas being devoured by the supermassive black hole. Like chugging cheap beer. Another possible cause is that a burst of star formations triggered a series of shock waves that rippled through Sgr A*. Like getting punched in the belly after chugging cheap beer. William Cotton says:
"In effect, this inflated energetic bubbles in the hot, ionized gas near the galactic center, energizing it and generating radio waves which we could eventually detect here on Earth."
The more we look at the center of the Milky Way the more weird stuff we seem to find. And the more we look at black holes the more active they seem to be. Which is slightly off-putting. But it's at least pretty cool. I mean, it's the coolest incident of violent burping I've ever heard about.