Recently observed by Nasa, approximately a dozen supermassive black holes are simultaneously shooting bursts of energy in the same direction. While it may be a coincidence, astronomers are suggesting that larger forces at play.
Found at the center of nearly all galaxies, black holes periodically erupt and release streams of plasma into space. When a black hole swallows a star, it generally releases a large burst of x-ray energy into the surrounding galaxy. Thought to be independent events, this new observation is suggesting otherwise.
A new survey has detected an unusual alignment of energy being released from a handful of black holes, all located within a hundred million light years of each other. A pattern like this is incredibly unlikely unless it’s being dictated by something more powerful than itself…but what’s more powerful than a black hole?
Russ Taylor, an astrophysicist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa believes that these eruptions of energy are being steered by filaments, a sort of scaffolding along which matter congregates on a cosmic scale. If the hypothesis is correct, it could help explain how our universe’s present structure came to be.
“What we’re seeing is the result of a very large region in the early universe spinning coherently in the same direction, adding a new wrinkle to explain how large-scale structure formed.” – Russ Taylor
Astrophysicist Michael DiPompeo isn’t so sure that these filaments still exist though, stating “I’m not super convinced that it’s really there.” Doing his own calculation he suggests that the alignment is a statistical fluke.
By simulating observations of 64 randomly oriented galaxy jets, (the computer equivalent of repeatedly dropping a bunch of toothpicks on a table and noting where each was pointed) “I could pretty regularly get patterns that look like this,” he says.
With that said the idea of a cosmic alignment is still intriguing enough to Taylor that he and his team plan to follow up on it by probing and researching more black holes, and by determining the precise distance between each galaxy they’ve already studied.
Regardless of the outcome, these occurrences only further our knowledge and make us realize just how little we understand about the known universe.