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Flash from Milky Way’s Black Hole Illuminated Gas Outside Our Galaxy

4 Jun 2020, 21:00 UTC
Flash from Milky Way’s Black Hole Illuminated Gas Outside Our Galaxy
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IMAGE: An enormous outburst from the vicinity of the Milky Way’s central black hole sent cones of blistering ultraviolet radiation above and below the plane of the galaxy and deep into space. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, and L. Hustak (STScI)

Our first story of the day taught me a new term: Fermi bubbles. Named after the gamma-ray telescope that discovered them, these dramatic regions of heated gas extend above and below the disc of our Milky Way galaxy, and were created during high-energy events involving our galaxy’s supermassive black hole (SMBH). First discovered in 2010, we’re still trying to understand these structures, what formed them, and how far-reaching an effect that source event may have had. It’s currently thought they most likely formed when 100,000 solar masses of material formed an accretion disk near our SMBH. As the material orbited rapidly toward its death, flashes were released that energized the surrounding gas that formed these globes.

New research shared yesterday at the AAS meeting shows that the event related to the Fermi bubble formation had much more distant effects than previously realized. Beyond energizing the Fermi bubbles, the light ionized gas as far away as the Magellanic Stream: the stream ...

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