A new study concluded that about 3,5 million years ago, the core of the Milky Way exploded, blasting massive amounts of energy and radiation throughout the galaxy and beyond into the deep Universe. According to the researchers, the burst of emissions reached 200,000 light-years away into space.
A team of astronomers and astrophysicists led by Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics made the discovery and published the study in The Astrophysical Journal.
Called the Seyfert flare, the explosion emitted two cones of radiations throughout the galaxy. While small in diameter right near the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A, where the blast took place, the two cones considerably expanded as they passed beyond Milky Way.
The blast was so powerful that it even hit the Magellanic Stream, a region of gas near the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds. The explosion in the core of the Milky Way could have taken place due to the nuclear activity linked to Sagittarius A.
Milky Way’s Core Exploded About 3,5 Million Years Ago
“The flare must have been a bit like a lighthouse beam. Imagine darkness, and then someone switches on a lighthouse beacon for a brief period of time,” said Professor Bland-Hawthorn.
The team of scientists used the data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope to study the Seyfert flare better. They calculated the moment when the Milky Way’s core exploded and estimated that it happened around 3,5 million years ago. That is quite recent, in astronomical terms.
“This is a dramatic event that happened a few million years ago in the Milky Way’s history. A massive blast of energy and radiation came right out of the galactic center and into the surrounding material. This shows that the center of the Milky Way is a much more dynamic place than we had previously thought. It is lucky we’re not residing there,” explained Professor Lisa Kewley from ASTRO 3D.
The study tried to identify the sources of the event. As we mentioned above, Sagittarius A supermassive black hole at Milky Way’s core is the primary suspect. However, there is still much research to be done, scientists said.