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SDSS J1354+1327 Animations
A Tour of SDSS J1354+1327
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 2:41]

With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Astronomers have caught a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy snacking on gas and then "burping" — not once, but twice.

The dining galaxy is known by its abbreviated name, J1354, and is about 800 million light years from Earth. Scientists used observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the ground-based optical telescopes to track both the behavior and diet of this monster-sized black hole.

The Chandra data revealed a bright, point-like source of X-ray emission at the center of J1354, a telltale sign of the presence of a black hole containing millions or billions of times more mass than our sun. The X-ray data also provide evidence that the supermassive black hole is embedded in a heavy veil of gas.

The researchers found evidence that in the past the supermassive black hole consumed large amounts of gas while blasting off an outflow of high-energy particles. Eventually, this outflow turned off, and then turned back on with another black hole snack about 100,000 later.

Where did the black hole get its two-course meal? The data point to the cosmic crumbs left behind from a collision with another galaxy long ago. This collision left a clumpy stream of gas and dust strewn between the two galaxies. As clumps from this stream wandered too close, they were consumed by the supermassive black hole.

Scientists think our Milky Way's own black hole has experienced at least one similar burp of its own. By understanding how a black hole like J1354 feeds, astronomers are hoping to learn more about supermassive black holes and how they grow both near and far.

A Quick Look at SDSS J1354+1327
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 1:08]

A supermassive black hole has been caught "snacking" not once, but twice, in the J1354 galaxy about 800 million light years from Earth.

The black hole's two-course meal was served up from a stream of gas and dust from a collision with another galaxy in the past.

Scientists used X-rays from Chandra and optical data from other telescopes to track the black hole's behavior and diet.

The researchers estimate that the black hole went about 100,000 years between snacks, with a nap of inactivity in between.

Astronomers studying this galaxy want to better understand how black holes, including the one in the Milky Way, grow over time.

Return to SDSS J1354+1327 (January 11, 2018)