Snapshot: Sagittarius A* gives its compliments to the chef

The Milky Way's supermassive black hole may have burped as recently as a few thousand years ago.
By | Published: January 7, 2022 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
NASA, ESA, and Gerald Cecil (UNC-Chapel Hill); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

Like any happy eater, our Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), belches every time it consumes a particularly hefty meal. The resulting small outbursts, or mini-jets, can be difficult to spot outright, but may leave traces in the surrounding gas. 

SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, Gerald Cecil (UNC-Chapel Hill) IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

Such evidence of a blowtorchlike jet released just a few thousand years ago was outlined in a paper published Dec. 6 in the Astrophysical Journal. Though the jet wasn’t spotted directly, the Hubble Space Telescope instead saw indirect evidence of the jet’s material pushing on a nearby hydrogen cloud.

Another lingering jet was previously spotted in 2013 by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. Both jets clearly indicate that the 4.1-million-solar-mass Sgr A* is far from a sleeping giant.