An artist’s impression of the massive bursts of ionising radiation exploding from the centre of the Milky Way and impacting the Magellanic Stream. Credit: James Josephides/Thorsten Tepper-Garcia/ASTRO 3D
Original Published Date: 
Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Full article issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D).

A team of scientists led by ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn from the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D), has discovered that a titanic, expanding beam of energy sprang from close to the supermassive black hole in the centre of our home galaxy—the Milky Way—just 3.5 million years ago. 

Known as a Seyfert flare, the explosion created two enormous ‘ionisation cones’ that sliced through the galaxy—expanding vastly as they impacted on the Magellanic Stream, a long trail of gas extending from nearby dwarf galaxies.

So powerful was the flare that researchers say it must have been triggered by nuclear activity associated with the black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, which is at the centre of the Milky Way. The discovery has significantly altered our understanding of the Milky Way which was previously thought to be a relatively inactive galaxy, with a not very bright centre.

In conducting the research, Professor Bland-Hawthorn was joined by colleagues from The Australia National University and The University of Sydney, and, in the US, the University of North Carolina, University of Colorado and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Photo credit: 

An artist’s impression of the massive bursts of ionising radiation exploding from the centre of the Milky Way and impacting the Magellanic Stream. Credit: James Josephides/Thorsten Tepper-Garcia/ASTRO 3D