The centre of the Milky Way is the most energetic region in the galaxy, with bright X-ray sources shown in white. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI
The centre of our galaxy is a frenzy of activity. A behemoth black hole — four million times as massive as the Sun — blasts out energy as it chows down on interstellar detritus while neighbouring stars burst to life and subsequently explode.
Now, an international team of astronomers has discovered two exhaust channels — dubbed “galactic centre chimneys” — that appear to funnel matter and energy away from the cosmic fireworks in the Milky Way’s centre, about 28,000 light years from Earth.
Mark Morris, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor of astronomy and astrophysics, contributed to the research, which is published 21 March in the journal Nature.
“We hypothesise that these chimneys are exhaust vents for all the energy released at the centre of the galaxy,” Morris says.
All galaxies are giant star-forming factories, but their productivity can vary widely — from one galaxy to the next and even over the course of each galaxy’s lifetime. One mechanism for throttling the rate of star production is the fountain of matter and energy whipped ...