They discover a huge gas bubble in the center of our galaxy

They discover a huge gas bubble in the center of our galaxy
They discover a huge gas bubble in the center of our galaxy
ESO’s ALMA telescopes pointing at the Milky Way with the location of Sagitarius A, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. In the window you can see the image of Sagitarius A that the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) took
Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (, EHT Collaboration

The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is surrounded by a bubble of hot gas, according to a recent analysis from the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. The gas rotates around the black hole at about 30% of the speed of light.

The incredible speed of the bubble means that it completes an orbit around Sagittarius A, a black hole containing the mass of more than 4 million suns, every 70 minutes. its discoverers have just post a description of the gas bubble in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“It really new and interesting is that such flares were so far only clearly present in X-ray and infrared observations of Sagittarius A“, Explain Maciek Wielgus, astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, in a statement from the ALMA Observatory. . “Here we see for the first time a very strong indication that orbiting hot spots are also present in radio observations.” The bubble was discovered in data taken by the huge ALMA radio telescope in 2017. The ALMA observations came shortly after NASA’s Chandra Space Telescope detected an X-ray flare from the center of the Milky Way.

An image of the supermassive black hole Sagitarius A, as seen by the Event Horizon Telescope (AHT) with a graphical representation of the bubble based on ALMA models and its orbit around the black hole.
Image: EHT Collaboration, ESO/M. Kornmesser (Acknowledgment: M. Wielgus)

Those X-ray flashes are associated with hot spots in the galactic core, areas where the superheated gas surrounding the galaxy’s center is particularly hot. The timing was fortuitous, but it showed how radio telescopes like ALMA can detect the same behavior as X-ray observatories.

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Since then, the EHT published the first image of a black hole in 2019. IThis year, he did the same with the first image of our own black hole. ALMA, high in the Chilean desert, participated in the imaging of both black holes. Supermassive black holes have such strong gravitational pulls that not even photons of light can escape them. This is why images of black holes show bright orange halos (superheated gas and dust around them).) with black spots in the center. For a long time it was thought that supermassive black holes resided in the centers of galaxies; the images taken by the EHT are the best evidence so far that the theory is correct.

Part of the ALMA telescope in Chile.
Photo: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP (Getty Images)

The research team believes that the gas bubble surrounding Sagittarius A is a product of how the superheated gas around the black hole interacts with the black hole itself magnetic field of the hole. The observations also “give us a clue about the geometry of the process,” he adds. Monika Mościbrodzka, an astrophysicist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, in the same statement.

The bubble was not directly observed; rather the researchers saw signs of this in how the brightness and angle of the light from Sagittarius A* changed during the bubble’s orbit. The team hopes that the EHT will be able to directly observe the gas, potentially even closer to the black hole and its extreme physics. It’s hard to say if we’ll ever get information beyond the event horizon, but for now we can settle for being closer to it.

The article is in Spanish

Tags: discover huge gas bubble center galaxy

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