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A Tour of SDSS J1354+1327
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.
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2 min 42 sec
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