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Space Science

Black Hole Emits a 1,000-Light-Year-Wide Gas Bubble 145

PhrostyMcByte writes "12 million light-years away, in the outer spiral of galaxy NGC 7793, a bubble of hot gas approximately 1,000 light-years in diameter can be found shooting out of a black hole — one of the most powerful jets of energy ever seen. (Abstract available at Nature.) The bubble has been growing for approximately 200,000 years, and is expanding at around 1,000,000 kilometers per hour."
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Black Hole Emits a 1,000-Light-Year-Wide Gas Bubble

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  • Maybe it sucked up too much matter and had to fart?

    • That is what happens when black holes suck up too much of element 16.
    • "Think of the astronomical odors you'll smell thanks to me!"
    • by dov_0 ( 1438253 )
      Or burp.... "Bwaaaaaaaarpp!! Aaah. Sorry, eaten too much!"
    • Maybe it sucked up too much matter and had to fart?

      Funny but true. Jets from black holes aren't the hole emitting matter. They're the part of the accretion disk of infalling matter which gets caught in the spinning magnetic field near the black hole's poles and is propelled away from the hole at extreme velocity. Meanwhile the infalling matter, "circling the drain", spins up the black hole further as it is finally captured.

      So jets like these are produced by the combination of the hole having a strong mag

  • by Braintrust ( 449843 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:07PM (#32855844)

    ...Sirius did it!

  • by Kingrames ( 858416 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:08PM (#32855852)
    You eat just ONE bean-shaped planet...
  • very minor issue (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lazareth ( 1756336 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:08PM (#32855862)
    A minor issue with the headline (of both the summary and the article) is that the black hole does not really emit the gas bubble per se. It is emitting jets of extremely fast moving particles which then hits nearby interstella gas. Obviously this causes an increase in temperature, creating a "snowball" effect resulting in the aforementioned 1000-light-year-wide (flaming) gas bubble.
    • It sounds like someone at a drunken frat party playing one of those "look at this" games with a match.

      Do we need to call an ambulance for this one too?

  • by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:11PM (#32855876) Journal
    I'm sorry if this is a really dumb question, but how can a black hole emit much of anything? I thought they couldn't emit light, any anything else, not even information.
    • by Rene S. Hollan ( 1943 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:13PM (#32855898)

      No, but the combination of gravity and magnetism means they can whip up a lot of stuff outside the event horizon and direct it outward along the poles.

      Further, stuff that does fall in adds it's angular momentum to that of the hole, and a spinning black hole has both an inner and outer event horizon. Stuff can fall through one and still escape the other, IIRC, removing angular momentum from the hole.

    • by InterGuru ( 50986 ) <> on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:17PM (#32855932) Homepage

      The phraseology in the article is misleading. The energy and gas jets are emitted as matter falls towards the black hole and becomes superheated from the falling. Once the matter crosses the boundary ( event horizon ) into the back hole itself it disappears from the rest of the universe.

      Information is released, but very very slowly.

    • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:18PM (#32855940)

      They can emit Hawking radiation.

      Basically, pairs of particles appear out of nowhere for extremely brief amounts of time, fly around a bit, then collide together and disappear again.

      (Yes, this happens. Matter appears out of nowhere and then disappears again.)

      If this pair of particles pops into existence just outside the event horizon of a black hole, there's a chance that, in their brief flying about, one will cross the event horizon and the other will not. Since they're no disjoint, they don't disappear like they normally do.

      The particle that is on the outside of the event horizon escapes as Hawking radiation.

      • also, don't ask me why, it apparently tends to be the anti-matter particle which gets pulled into the black hole which eliminates some of the black holes mass.... or something like that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          No, antimatter does not have antimass. And it is 50/50 as to which of the pair falls into the black hole. But for that formerly virtual particle to now exist as a "regular" particle it's energy has to come from somewhere, and in this case, "somewhere" is the black hole. I believe that this is one of those points where to go further, you need to get into the actual math.

      • by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:21AM (#32859432)

        I would like to add that this kind of Hawking radiation is extremely slow process and that it has nothing to do with giant fireballs escaping from black holes as such. Or, very probably, anything else we can detect.

      • Technically that is not emission. Since the “emitted” particle of the pair never was inside the event horizon at any time. It just came close enough for its partner to get swallowed and then escaped.

    • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:43PM (#32856178) Journal

      Not so much emit as throw away, as a fat kid does with the a wrapper around a candy bar.

    • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:48PM (#32856696)

      I'm sorry if this is a really dumb question, but how can a black hole emit much of anything? I thought they couldn't emit light, any anything else, not even information.

      The dominant theoretical model of black holes has them emitting energy (Hawking radiation).

      Though I don't think the effect here is really the black hole emitting anything (from within the event horizon), but an instead an effect that occurs because of gravitational compression outside the event horizon.

    • by t14m4t ( 205907 ) * <> on Saturday July 10, 2010 @10:28AM (#32860004) Homepage

      Several other comments talk about a pair of particles being created out of nothing, one gets absorbed and the other flies away. This is basically right, but can be confusing (the one that gets absorbed has negative energy in order to conserve energy). Here's an easier mental model....

      Steve Hawking came up with an idea a while ago (70's perhaps?). He was thinking about black holes whose event horizon was around the size of an atom. Then he put it up against the Heizenberg Uncertainty Principle. He realized that particles in these black holes would have such a high degree of certainty about their position, that there would be such a low certainty about their velocity. Therefor, there would be some that would be REALLY fast. Not fast enough that they could escape the pull of the black hole, but fast enough that they could get just above the event horizon. There, they could give off a high-energy photon, and fall back in. This photon, since it was emitted outside the event horizon, would actually escape. This radiation can (and has been) detected, and causes what is known as evaporation. []

      Ironically, this means that smaller black holes (which have higher certainty about a particle's position) evaporate faster. Large-ish black holes absorb more energy cosmic microwave radiation than they emit in Hawking radiation, but if they have small enough mass (I believe smaller than the size of our moon), they emit more Hawking radiation than they receive from the cosmic background.

    • by Genda ( 560240 )

      There are all kinds of things that can cause a black hole to emit light. Hawking's Radiation for one. The powerful jets at either pole of a black hole result when it is feeding, and large amounts of matter build up in an accretion disk. Incredibly powerful magnetic fields are created by ionized plasma moving at relativistic speeds, and these field create powerful polarized beams of energetic particles, we see as jets and gamma ray bursts.

      The accretion disk itself can emit a tremendous amount of energy.

  • Is that an actual image, or an artist's rendition? Why is the bubble of gas so spherical? I would have expected it to be asymmetrical.

    • Re:Imagery (Score:5, Informative)

      by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:47PM (#32856206) Journal

      That's a piss-poor artist's rendition that on the one hand has a silly sun being slurped up like spaghetti by a black hole, and on the other hand has a depiction of the sort of jet that actually occurs at the poles of a spinning black hole.

      The actual "bubble" is diffusion of the jet into gas somewhere off in the direction of the black hole, and is not depicted in that image.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Why is the bubble of gas so spherical?

      According to my FoxNews Guide to the Universe, the natives considered cubic ones to be eyesores, lowering local real-estate values.

  • Excuse me! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 )
    Anybody got a white dwarf sized Beano?
  • The previous record holder for a gas bubble discharge was the Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent. This was done over a seven hour period while reciting his award-winning poem, "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning."
  • Just send off a rocket full of this [].
  • by Anonymous Coward NGC 911 also known as the Taco Bell Nebula.

  • End of the world. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:19PM (#32855950) Journal

    Let's do this grade 6 math puzzle style.

    Expanding at ~1,000,000 km/h

    12 million light years away.

    It already has a radius of 1000 light years.

    Assume a light year is 9.46 trillion km long.

    Assuming this gas bubble was created by the universes first perpetual motion machine, so the growth is constant, how long before this gas bubble wipes out all life on Earth. Someone watch my math and make sure I didn't slip up.

    (9,460,000,000 * 12) - 5000 = 113519995000 km to go.

    113519995000 * 1000 = 113519995000000 hours left.

    Or 4729999791666.6 repeating days
    Or ~675714255952 weeks
    or ~12994504922 years.

    If we do live forever, mark your calendars, 12994506932, Earth is finished.

    • Hmm. Only 7 billion years after our sun turns into a red giant.

      Ideally, we'll have moved off this rock and/or moved the rock itself by then.

      • But by that time an entire bubble with a radius of 12 million 1 thousand light years will have engulfed part of our space.

        • Ah, but we know where it is. We just go the other way. We'll have to move off in 4-5 billion years and will have a 7 billion year head start.

    • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:43PM (#32856164)
      But it will diminish in density. By the time it reaches us it will be nothing more than a malodorous puff of wind.
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Okay. Now do this one:

      As population grows, eventually there will be enough people to entirely cover the surface of the earth one person deep. As population grows further, the depth of humans will increase, pushing the surface of the human-earth outward. Given the current population growth rate, how long, in years, will it be until the human-earth surface is expanding outward at the speed of light?

      Hint: it's a 4-digit number.

    • Let's do this grade 6 math puzzle style.

      Expanding at ~1,000,000 km/h

      12 million light years away.

      It already has a radius of 1000 light years.

      Assume a light year is 9.46 trillion km long.

      Assuming this gas bubble was created by the universes first perpetual motion machine, so the growth is constant, how long before this gas bubble wipes out all life on Earth. Someone watch my math and make sure I didn't slip up.

      9,460,000,000,000 km/ly * (12,000,000 ly - 1000 ly) = 113,510,540,000,000,000,000 km to go.

      113,510,540,000,000,000,000 km / 1,000,000 km/hr = 113,510,540,000,000 hrs left.

      Or ~4,729,605,833,333 days

      Or ~675,657,976,190 weeks

      Or ~12,993,422,619 years.

      If we do live forever, mark your calendars, 12,993,424,639, Earth is finished.


      Somehow, despite the fact that you...

      - substituting 9.46 billion for 9.46 trillion

      - multiplying by 12 then subtracting 5000 instead of multiplying by 12 million minus 1 thousand

      - multiplying by 1,000 instead of dividing by 1,000,000

      ... you still managed to get an answer that was a small error off. Will you PLEASE explain the steps you took? I can't make any sense of them, but obviously there is some legitimacy to them.

      Oh, and if it's growing at 1,000,000 km/hr in DIAMETER, it will take twice as long...

      • Still incorrect, if only be a small percentage, because this doesn't take into account the 12 million years it has already been traveling.
      • Head explodes!!!!!!
    • Isn't our sun going to be dead long before then?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BitZtream ( 692029 )

      Only if we happen to be in the path of the jet, its not a sphere you know. I'm not upping my life insurance policy.

    • Won't the rate of increase in the radius of the sphere decrease as a cube function of time? Or something like that? :)

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Expanding at ~1,000,000 km/h

      I think 12994504922 would be a vast underestimate. Right now it's expanding at ~1,000,000 km/h. It is unlikely that the rate of expansion is constant.

      It is likely to run into other matter in the universe, and changes in temperature that can reduce the rate of expansion, long before it reaches earth.

      Also, the universe itself is expanding at approximately 255,000 km/h, and an accelerating rate.

      It is possible that long before it reaches earth, the rate of expansion of the

    • I couldn't follow your calculations, but your answer is ok;*10 []^6+light+years%29+%2F+%281000000+km%2Fh+*+%2824*365+hours%2Fyear%29%29 Using units in the calculations makes it easier.
    • OK, now somebody calculate how many atoms are actually going to hit earth once it's here (if it gets here at all), or I won't be able to sleep tonight.

  • pictures are here (Score:5, Informative)

    by at10u8 ( 179705 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:22PM (#32855988)
    Radio and x-ray images in their astro-ph preprint [].
    • Thanks!! Original article incorrectly uses an artists illustration of another situation and the Nature link wants fee to view.
  • Go ahead (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by PPH ( 736903 )
    Pull my event horizon.
  • Mini-"Big Bang" in action
  • GP really screwed up this time. They put their energy well too far into the black hole's accretion disk, and it triggered a run-away tidal friction cascade, spewing hot plasma toward Jar Jar Bink's planet.

    I'm sure it's just an accident. After all, who'd want to kill Jar Jar?

  • So BP has been in space all this time?
  • A whole hour and not 1 goatse reference?

    This is a day that shall live in infamy.

  • 200,000 years (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Lode ( 1290856 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:28PM (#32856566)

    Is that 200,000 years from now, or 200,000 years from 12 million years ago? (since it's that many lightyears away)

  • Quick! Someone tell the puppeteers, before they run into *another* exploding galaxy.
  • So (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:07PM (#32857198)

    I guess BP was drilling there, too.

  • some dialed a super gate!

  • 12 million light years from here, I suspect you would not find a gas bubble shooting out of a black hole, because if we're detecting it now, it means it happened 12 million years ago, and if you were 12 million years away from here at that black hole, the gas bubble would have long since been shot out.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.