Washington: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found that the heart of our Milky Way galaxy underwent a titanic eruption, driving gases and other material outward at 2 million miles per hour 2 million years ago.
In the aftermath of the explosion, astronomers are currently witnessing billowing clouds of gas that are towering about 30,000 light-years above and below the plane of our galaxy.
The enormous structure was discovered five years ago as a gamma-ray glow on the sky in the direction of the galactic center. The balloon-like features have since been observed in X-rays and radio waves and the scientists now seek to calculate the mass of the material being blown out of our galaxy, which could lead them to determine the outburst's cause from several competing scenarios.
Astronomers have proposed two possible origins for the bipolar lobes: a firestorm of star birth at the Milky Way's center or the eruption of its supermassive black hole. Although astronomers have seen gaseous winds, composed of streams of charged particles, emanating from the cores of other galaxies, they are getting a unique, close-up view of our galaxy's own fireworks.
Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, lead researcher of the study, said that when one looks at the centers of other galaxies, the outflows appear much smaller because the galaxies are farther away, but the outflowing clouds they are seeing are only 25,000 light-years away in our galaxy.
The study will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.