An international team of astronomers, including Northwestern’s Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, has discovered one of the largest structures ever observed in the Milky Way. A newly spotted pair of radio-emitting bubbles reach hundreds of light-years tall, dwarfing all other structures in the central region of the galaxy.
The team believes the enormous, hourglass-shaped structure likely is the result of a phenomenally energetic burst that erupted near the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole several million years ago.
“The center of our galaxy is relatively calm when compared to other galaxies with very active central black holes,” said Ian Heywood of the University of Oxford, first author of study. “Even so, the Milky Way’s central black hole can — from time to time — become uncharacteristically active, flaring up as it periodically devours massive clumps of dust and gas. It’s possible that one such feeding frenzy triggered powerful outbursts that inflated this previously unseen feature.”
For this work, the team used the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) MeerKAT telescope, the largest science project in Africa. This is the first paper detailing research completed with MeerKAT’s full 64-dish array since its launch in July 2018.[…]