Researchers are finding out more about a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, discovering that it has been leaking gases for several thousand years and is not the sleeping giant they once thought.
Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* is the incredibly large central black hole of the Milky Way, and as Space.com describes, it is emitting "jet-like superheated beams," and has been for a long time.
Researchers have been able to study a composite image of the black hole from the Hubble Space Telescope, which shows that bright X-ray radiation, bright clouds and molecular gas were found near Sgr A*. Neither the black hole nor the jet-like super-heated beams have been directly photographed yet.
NASA said Sagittarius A* appears to have what looks like a “blowtorch-like jet dating back several thousand years.”
Gerald Cecil, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, led the research. In a report published by Astrophysical Journal, Cecil said he “pieced together, like a jigsaw puzzle, multiwavelength observations from a variety of telescopes that suggest the black hole burps out mini-jets every time it swallows something hefty, like a gas cloud.”
Cecil's research used a telescope at the ALMA Observatory in Chile, and researchers found an “expanding, narrow linear feature in molecular gas that can be traced back at least 15 light-years to the black hole.”
Images that were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope also allowed researchers to discover “a glowing, inflating bubble of hot gas that aligns to the jet at a distance of at least 35 light-years from the black hole.”
In his paper, Cecil writes that Sgr A* was a "thousandfold brighter" at the very center, up to a century ago, calling this theory "fading echoes."