A supermassive black hole that sits in the center of our galaxy went haywire and erupted some two million years ago, a paper recently published in The Astrophysical Journal argues.
This major eruption is responsible for the fact that the Magellanic Stream, which is basically a stream of high-velocity gas clouds trailing the Large and the Small Magellanic Clouds, i.e. two neighboring galaxies, emits light, researchers maintain. Besides, it appears that, in the aftermath of this explosion, the supermassive black hole lost loads of energy, hence the fact that it is now some 100 million times less powerful than it used to be 2 million years ago.
Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn with the University of Sydney, Australia, explains that, scientists have long suspected that there was something off with the Magellanic Stream and that this stream of high-velocity gas clouds must have been exposed to unusual circumstances.
Still, it took a while for them to figure out what exactly had happened and why the Magellanic Stream was emitting light, especially in the region that is closest to the galactic center. “For twenty years we've seen this odd glow from the Magellanic Stream. We didn't understand the cause,” Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn explains, as cited by PhysOrg. “Then suddenly we realized it must be the mark, the fossil record, of a huge outburst of energy from the center of our galaxy,” the researcher further details.
Dr. Philip Maloney with the University of Colorado in Boulder, US explains that, according to his and his colleagues’ investigations, the fact that the area surrounding the black hole keeps pouring out radio waves, infrared, X-rays and gamma rays is also an indicator that one such explosion occurred. “All this points to a huge explosion at the center of our galaxy,”
Dr. Philip Maloney says. Researchers say the eruption probably occurred because the black hole had swallowed a tad too much material from its surroundings. Thus, it likely accumulated too much energy and had to dispose of it in some way.