Milky Way core flared up like a lighthouse in the recent past?

An artist’s impression of the massive bursts of ionizing radiation exploding from the center of the Milky Way and impacting the Magellanic Stream. Image credit James Josephides  ASTRO 3D

The high-energy radiation, which scientists call a Seyfert flare, created two enormous ionisation cones that sliced through the Milky Way. "Imagine darkness, and then someone switches on a lighthouse beacon for a brief** period of time".

It's considered to be a recent event because when it happened the dinosaurs had already been wiped out for 63 million years and human ancestors were already walking on Earth.

Using data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope, Professor Bland-Hawthorn and her researchers calculated that the massive explosion took place little more than three million years ago.

Ballooning out of both poles of the galactic center, two gargantuan orbs of gas stretch into space for 25,000 light-years apiece (roughly the same as the distance between Earth and the center of the Milky Way), though it's visible only in ultra powerful X-ray and gamma-ray light. Ultimately, the impact of the flare was felt 200,000 light-years away, the researchers added. Scientists had always believed the Milky Way to be a fairly quiet galaxy compared to others but - since we don't know how to gauge where or when another flare will hit - now it seems we'll be keeping a closer eye on our own back yard.

A powerful energy flare sprang out of the center of the Milky Way about 3.5 million years ago, findings of a new research suggest.

The team first described the evidence of this explosion in 2013, when they identified Sagittarius A* - a massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way around 4.2m times bigger than the sun - as the cause of the explosion.

"It's an fantastic thought that, when cave people walked the Earth, if they'd looked off in the direction of the galactic center, they'd have seen some kind of giant ball of heated gas", Bland-Hawthorn said in a video accompanying the study.

"A massive blast of energy and radiation came right out of the galactic centre 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.

The blast, the researchers estimate, lasted for perhaps 300,000 years - an extremely short period in galactic terms.

'These results dramatically change our understanding of the Milky Way,' said co-author Magda Guglielmo. It is lucky we're not residing there!' These new results instead open the possibility of a complete reinterpretation of its evolution and nature'.



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