Supermassive black holes are a bit like felines- they are either catnap or they are eating. Unlike felines, they likewise “burp”, liberating energy after their snacks. Astronomers now have spotted a nearby supermassive black hole that has gone through the nap-eat-burp cycle twice in less than 100,000 years.
In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, researchers report details of the active nucleus of galaxy SDSS J1354 +1327, J1354 for short, located 900 million light-years from Earth. J1354 is orbited by a larger companion galaxy, and the interaction between the two is building material whirl towards the supermassive black hole and push it into its active quasar phase.
“We are seeing this object feast, burping and sleep, and then feast, burp and nap is again, which hypothesi had predicted, ” result author Professor Julia Comerford of CU Boulder said in a statement. “Fortunately, we happened to observe this galaxy in a moment where we could clearly find both events.”
The team utilized two space telescopes( Hubble and X-ray observatory Chandra) and two ground-based facilities( W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico) to characterize the object.
With this data, the team was able to establish that two signatures- one on the northern side and one on the south side of the galaxies- were from the supermassive black hole and they didn’t happen at the same time. The older emission happened about 1 million years before what we see in the galaxy now.
“This galaxy truly caught us off her guard, ” explained Rebecca Nevin, a CU Boulder doctoral student and investigate co-author. “We were able to show that the gas from the north part of the galaxy was consistent with an advancing margin of a shock wave, and the gas from the south are appropriate to an older quasar outflow.”
The Chandra observations highlight how intense a supermassive black hole can get. The dust and gas falling towards the black hole are heated of thousands of degrees and this hot material purposes up shrouding the black hole.
The occasional emission from the black hole helps us understand how these leviathans of the cosmos run. They might not be extremely common, but they are not exactly exotic. Even our own Milky way and its dormant supermassive black hole had some activity in the past.