Astronomers noticed two gigantic waves of gas being “burped” by the massive black hole at the center of NGC 5195, a small galaxy 26 million light years from Earth. It’s one of the closest “supermassive” black holes to our planet to be showing such activity.
The team believes the outburst is a consequence of the interaction of NGC 5195 with a nearby, larger galaxy. The energy generated by the sudden inflow of gas towards the black hole caused the outburst, which, according to the team, amassed enough material to prompt the formation of new stars.
“Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal,” the University of Texas’s Eric Schlegel, who led the study, told NASA. “Our observation is important because this behavior would likely happen very often in the early universe, altering the evolution of galaxies. It is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have such a close, resolved view of these events.”
Using X-ray images from NASA’s Chandra Observatory and optical images from the Kitt Peak National Observatory, Schlegel and his team spotted the two arcs of gas, preceded by a thin layer of cooler hydrogen gas. This suggests that the hotter gas snatched the hydrogen gas from the heart of the galaxy.