“NASA’s Chandra Notices the Galactic Center is Venting”,  Chandra Press Release

May 10, 2024

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Chicago/S.C. Mackey et al.; Radio: NRF/SARAO/MeerKAT; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/N. Wolk

Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have located an exhaust vent attached to a “chimney” of hot gas blowing away from the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Eruptions from the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center called Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short) may have created this chimney and exhaust vent.

The chimney and vent are about 26,000 light-years from Earth. The chimney begins at the center of the galaxy and stands perpendicular to the Milky Way’s spiral disk. Astronomers had previously identified the chimney using X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton, an ESA (European Space Agency) mission with NASA contributions. Radio emission detected by the MeerKAT radio telescope shows the effect of magnetic fields enclosing the gas in the chimney.

The latest Chandra data reveals several X-ray ridges roughly perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy. Researchers think these are the walls of a tunnel, shaped like a cylinder, which helps funnel hot gas as it moves upwards along the chimney and away from the Galactic Center. The newly discovered vent is located near the top of the chimney about 700 light-years from the center of the galaxy.

“We suspected that magnetic fields are acting as the walls of the chimney and that hot gas is traveling up through them, like smoke”, said Scott Mackey of the University of Chicago, who led the study. “Now we’ve discovered an exhaust vent near the top of the chimney.”

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