December 16, 2020
from LiveScience Website
This false-color map shows
the newfound X-ray bubbles (yellow and red)
towering over the galactic center.
Image: © MPE/IKI
are more than 45,000 light-years wide...
but what created
Those waves bulldozed
through the galaxy, heating up all the gas and dust in their path
and leaving two telltale blobs of hot, highly energized gamma-rays
in their wake.
Today, those blobs - now named the Fermi Bubbles - span half the width of our galaxy.
Since their discovery in 2010, the bubbles have been a monolithic mystery of our galaxy - and now we know they are not alone.
As scientists continue to study our galaxy in every wavelength of light imaginable, strange new structures within the Fermi Bubbles - from "chimneys" of plasma to slowly inflating balloons of radio energy - continue to emerge.
Now, a paper (Detection of Large-scale X-ray Bubbles in the Milky Way halo) published Dec. 9 in the journal Nature reveals some of the largest Fermi-familiar structures yet:
Visible only in X-ray emissions, these newfound bubbles are considerably less energetic (and less hot) than the Fermi blobs but are nearly as gargantuan, measuring about 45,000 light-years from end to end.
Like the Fermi bubbles, these orbs of hot gas tower above and below the galactic plane in a distinct hourglass shape, pinned to the galactic center at the point where the two blobs meet.
Given their similar shape and common midpoint, it's likely that the Fermi and eROSITA bubbles share a physical connection, and probably emerged from the same eruption of galactic fireworks millions of years ago, the authors wrote in their study.
That explanation fits for the newfound X-ray bubbles, the study authors wrote, considering the amount of energy required to inflate them.
The team calculated that an energy release equivalent to that of 100,000 supernovas (powerful stellar explosions) was needed to create these structures - a figure on a par with X-ray energy releases observed in other galaxies with active black holes at their centers.
Even if this hypothetical explosion is millions of years old, its traces would still be visible.
The telescope scans the entire sky every six months, constantly updating our view of the X-ray universe.