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Using a radio telescope array called MeerKAT to look through the dust clouding our galaxy's navel, researchers in South Africa have detected a pair of bubble-like radio-wave structures bulging out of the galactic center right next to the Fermi Bubbles. While these "radio bubbles" appear much smaller and much less energetic than the frenetic Fermi Bubbles, they likely originated from a similarly cataclysmic event involving our galaxy's central black hole. They may even be part of an ongoing process that's slowly fueling the Fermi Bubbles' inflation, the researchers wrote.
"The shape and symmetry of [the radio bubbles] strongly suggest that a staggeringly powerful event happened a few million years ago very near our galaxy's central black hole," study co-author William Cotton, an astronomer with the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, said in the statement. "This eruption was possibly triggered by vast amounts of interstellar gas falling in on the black hole or a massive burst of star formation which sent shock waves careening through the galactic center."
Alternatively, the radio bubbles may be a sign of a new galaxy-scale explosion in the making, the researchers wrote. Given their relatively small size and low energy, the radio bubbles could be the result of small-scale energy bursts that, over millions of years, fuel much larger explosions, creating vast, high-energy clouds like the Fermi Bubbles.
In this radio image of the Milky Way's center, a supermassive black hole (hidden in the bright blue spot in the middle) seethes while gargantuan bubbles of radio energy puff out on either side