January 10, 2016
NASA‘s astronomers may be changing the way black holes are viewed. As reported by Fox news on January 9, evidence was found in a study using X-ray images from NASA’s Chandra Observatory and optical images from the Kitt Peak National Observatory, that suggest that after black holes ‘eat’ stars and gas, they release gaseous arcs. A team from the University of Texas in San Antonio, who lead the study, spotted the two arcs of gas, preceded by a thin layer of cooler hydrogen gas.
According to NASA, a black hole is a region in space where the pulling force of gravity is so strong that light is not able to escape. The strong gravity occurs because matter has been pressed into a tiny space. This compression can take place at the end of a star’s life. Some black holes are a result of dying stars. These images shed new light on black hole theory; researchers believe that the expulsion of this gas may cause new stars to form. This shows that black holes have the potential to create, not just destroy.
The ‘burp’ or outburst was located in the super-massive black hole centered in the small galaxy NGC 5195. This companion galaxy is merging with a large spiral galaxy NGC 5194, also known as “The Whirlpool.” Both of these galaxies are in the Messier 51 galaxy system, located about 26 million light years from Earth. Though this black hole is the one closest to our planet, stellar Armageddon is probably not headed our way. According to the team, who presented the study at the most recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the burp happened a few million years ago.