NASA’s Chandra Spacecraft Detects Eruption from Supermassive Black Hole at Milky Way’s Core

By Lydia Amazouz Published on May 11, 2024 15:46
Nasa's Chandra Spacecraft Detects Eruption From Supermassive Black Hole At Milky Way's Core

NASA's Chandra X-ray space telescope has allowed scientists to identify a new cosmic “exhaust vent” that is directing hot gas away from Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole located at the center of our galaxy.

NASA's Chandra Discovers Vent in Milky Way's Core

The recently discovered vent is associated with a chimney-shaped structure located at a right angle in the disk of the Milky Way. The Chandra finding demonstrates how matter is channeled to our galaxy's outer regions through a “tunnel” located at its center.

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Throughout the cosmos, a large number of supermassive black holes are ferocious consumers of the surrounding gas, dust, and even stars.

In contrast, Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, is a light eater. It eats so little matter that, if it were a person, it could survive on one grain of rice every million years. The Chandra discoveries could reveal how this cosmic fussy eater chooses certain materials to ingest while rejecting others.

The vent revealed in Chandra's X-ray measurements of the Galactic Center is situated around 700 light-years from the region's exact core area, near the top of the “chimney.” This chimney was originally identified by the European Space Agency's (ESA) XMM-Newton telescope, which, like Chandra, examines the universe in X-rays.

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The image of the Galactic Center depicts blue X-ray data from Chandra that has been improved with observations acquired by the South African MeerKAT radio telescope, which is shown in red.

This radio-wave data shows the effect of magnetic fields that trap the chimney's gas.

A Composite Image Of Galactic Center Created Using Data From Chandra And Meerkat Showing The Location Of Sgr A And The Eruption Flowing From It

The new vent can be observed at the top of the image as a bright blue and white scar against darker blue gas.

In the improved image, which solely includes Chandra data, white ridges of stronger X-rays show. The researchers hypothesize that these are the walls of a cylindrical tunnel through which hot gas travels upwards and away from Sgr A* and its near environs.

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The Vent Of Matter Seen By Chandra Erupting From Sgr A With The Walls Of This Funnel Of Gas Marked By Bright X Rays Seen As White Ridges (image Credit Nasacxcuniv. Of Chicagos.c. Mackey Et Al.;)

NASA's Chandra Reveals Origin of Milky Way's Venting System Near Supermassive Black Hole

The team behind these findings has a notion about how this exhaust vent was developed. They believe that hot gas moving up the chimney causes shockwaves in colder gas, resulting in brighter X-ray vent walls. The researchers believe that the left side of the vent appears brighter in the photograph than the right side because the upward-moving hot gas strikes the left side of the chimney wall more directly and with higher force.

Where is this jet of hot gas originating from? Scientists believe that when material descends toward Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole bursts, pushing the matter up via the chimney and out the vent. What needs to be identified, however, is how frequently matter falls towards Sgr A*.

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Prior to these results, research indicated that Sgr A* and its surroundings in the Galactic Center underwent tremendous X-ray flares every few decades. These X-ray flares could play a crucial role in the process of pushing hot gas away from Sgr A*.

Sgr A* also has significantly more rare feeding episodes, which may play an important part in the overall gas-funneling process. Around every 20,000 years, the Milky Way's center supermassive black hole is thought to rip apart and swallow some unfortunate star that has come too close to it.

These occurrences, known as “tidal disruption events” or “TDEs,” result in the explosive release of massive amounts of energy, which is directed upwards into the black hole's chimney along with the remaining stellar debris from the torn star, which Sgr A* would reject as dessert.

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The team's Sgr A* study is pre-peer-reviewed and published on the arXiv paper repository.


An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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2 comments on «NASA’s Chandra Spacecraft Detects Eruption from Supermassive Black Hole at Milky Way’s Core»

  • Jose Ytuarte

    Imagine, being able to watch events as they happen in real time, kind of like looking through a virtual reality scene, you can almost reach out and touch it. Amazing. Think of all the things you could see and wonder about. Could you travel there, could you get there in an instant. Truly marvelous. Love anything and everything about our universe, are there other universe’s too far out to see and others that have traveled so far we could never be able to reach them even at 1000 times the speed of light. So many wonders, so many marvels, so many unknowns.

  • L.Alvarado

    I have seen this phenomenal sight with my own eyes tearing through a view of the full moon night’s sky looking north east towards the Marble Mountains, upriver from my childhood home, 2015, I have been searching for images to name, identify, or corelate what I had seen ever since, to my own wonderment I find I’m astonished and alarmed, what does it mean? 1.62.193, The Trinity Alps, and Chimkinee Ridge is where my home is and the river splits the Siskyous to the west and the (nebula) like sight was voluminous and it only appeared the one time, I think it was in January or maybe March. I had only gone home to visit a few times that year due to deaths and needing to be at the funerals. It was cold and the night was one of the darkest full moons I’ve ever seen. Curious.

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