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HubbleSite Researchers Catch Supermassive Black Hole Burping — Twice

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Space Telescope Science



Supermassive black holes, weighing millions of times as much as our Sun, are gatherers not hunters. Embedded in the hearts of galaxies, they will lie dormant for a long time until the next meal happens to come along.

The team of astronomers using observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and as well as the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Apache Point Observatory (APO) near Sunspot, New Mexico, zeroed in on a flickering black hole.

A black hole in the center of galaxy SDSS J1354+1327, located about 800 million light-years away, appears to have consumed large amounts of gas while blasting off an outflow of high-energy particles. The fresh burst of fuel might have been supplied by a bypassing galaxy. The outflow eventually switched off then turned back on about 100,000 years later. This is strong evidence that accreting black holes can switch their power output off and on again over timescales that are short compared to the 13.8-billion-year age of the universe.

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