Astronomers have spotted two huge waves of gas being “burped” by the black hole at the heart of a nearby galaxy, the BBC reports.
The swathes of hot gas, detected in X-ray images from Nasa’s Chandra space telescope, appear to be sweeping cooler hydrogen gas ahead of them.
This vast, rippling belch is taking place in NGC 5194 – a small, neglected sibling of the “Whirlpool Galaxy”, 26 million light years away.
That makes it one of the closest black holes blasting gas in this way.
The findings, presented at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Florida, are a dramatic example of “feedback” between a supermassive black hole and its host galaxy.
“We think that feedback keeps galaxies from becoming too large,” said Marie Machacek, a co-author of the study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA).
“But at the same time, it can be responsible for how some stars form. This shows that black holes can create, not just destroy.”