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Supermassive black hole caught ‘burping’ twice after colliding with nearby galaxy

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Using two telescopes, astronomers have found a black hole at the centre of a galaxy 800 million light years away that has spewed material into space not once, but twice.

Most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their centres, which consumes anything that gets too close. And while we tend to think of nothing escaping a black hole’s fierce grasp, when they devour material, some of it is ejected into space in the form of high-energy particles.

In order to see the two events, astronomers used data from ground-based telescopes as well as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Optical data from Hubble and the other telescopes found that the black hole — which is millions or perhaps billions of times more massive than our sun — at the centre of the galaxy designated SDSS J1354+1327 had ejected material twice, 100,000 years apart. 

“We are seeing this object feast, burp and nap, and then feast and burp once again, which theory had predicted,” said lead author of the study Julie Comerford of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Department of Astrophysical and Space Science in a statement.

“Fortunately, we happened to observe this galaxy at a time when we could clearly see evidence for both events.”

The reason the galaxy burped up material twice is due to a companion galaxy that interacted with J1354. At one point the pair collided and the material was eaten by the supermassive black hole.

Our galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its centre as well, which has also ejected material at one time over the past few million years.

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