Two massive bubbles stretch 700 light years above and below the center of the Milky Way

Radio image of the central portions of the Milky Way galaxyCredit: Oxford, SARAO​

  • Astronomers have spotted two huge bubbles going on for hundreds of light years, above and below the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • They form an hourglass-like shape, which indicates that they are a result of a very violent explosion that took place near the Milky Way's black hole.
  • Each of the bubbles also contains hundreds of filaments of unknown origin that are only found around the black hole and nowhere else in the Milky Way.
One of the largest features ever seen, has been spotted right at the center of our very own galaxy, the Milky Way.

It's pair of massive radio-emitting bubbles that stretch for 700 light years above and below the center of the galaxy.

Radio image of the center of the Milky Way with a portion of the MeerKAT telescope array in the foreground<br />Oxford, SARAO​​

Scientists believe that this could be the result of an enormous energetic burst that erupted near the Milky Way's supermassive black hole hundreds of years ago, according to their study published in Nature.

The bubbles had not been spotted so far because their signal melded with all the other bright radio emissions from the center of the galaxy.

In order to observe the phenomenon accurately, the internal team of astronomers had to take out all other background noise using the MeerKAT Telescope at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).

Bubbles with an 'hourglass' figure

The radio bubbles are identical when its comes to shape and size, according to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ( NRAO).

Nature

Because of bubbles' 'hourglass'-like shape, astronomers were able to determine that such similarities can only mean that they were formed from a violent eruption. The eruption would have moved quickly, ending as quickly as it started — punching through space in opposite directions.

"This eruption was possibly triggered by vast amounts of interstellar gas falling in on the black hole, or a massive burst of star formation which sent shockwaves careening through the galactic center," stated William Cotton, an astronomer with NRAO and co-author of the study.

The resulting hot and ionized gas inflated the bubbles, energizing them and generating radio waves that can now be detected from Earth, according to Cotton.

Solving the mystery of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole

The region that surrounds the Milky Way's supermassive black hole is quite different from the rest of the galaxy. There's also a lot about it that scientists are yet to understand.

One of mysteries are very long and narrow filaments that aren't found anywhere else except in that region. They were first discovered 35 years ago and show up at radio structures that are tens of light years long and only one light year wide.

But there might be a new clue to help find the answer. Each of the radio bubbles spotted contain more than a hundred of these filaments.

Since the bubbles originated from a big explosion around the Milky Way's black hole, it's possible that its also where these filaments were formed. It's at least responsible for accelerating the electrons required to produce the radio emission from the magnetized filaments.

This phenomenon also lends itself to understanding how other black holes in the universe operate — especially ones in galaxy's than are similar to the Milky Way.

See also:
There was a big spark — 75 times brighter than usual — from the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way

Our very own black hole in the Milky Way doesn't quite eat up 'everything'

Milky Way's 'quiet wimpy' black hole is getting hungrier and brighter
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