Astronomers have discovered gas that has apparently been "burped" by a supermassive black hole.
The black hole is part of a small galaxy called NGC 5195, around 25 million light years from Earth, which is in the process of merging with the bigger Whirlpool spiral galaxy you can see in the image above.
Looking at data from NASA's Chandra X-Ray observatory, astronomers saw that the black hole was accompanied by two outbursts of hydrogen gas. The two arcs highlighted in the image below show the outbursts. The galaxy merger could be the cause of the "burping".
The astronomers think the two burps happened separately, and calculated that the inner band probably took between 1 and 3 million years to reach where it is now, whereas the outer band took between 3 and 6 million years.
Marie Machacek of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a co-author of the study, said in a press release:
We think that feedback keeps galaxies from becoming too large. But at the same time, it can be responsible for how some stars form. This shows that black holes can create, not just destroy.
The work was presented at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Florida this week and has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.
Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
Contact Kelly Oakes at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.