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A huge explosion sliced through our galaxy just 3.5 million years ago, as human ancestors walked the Earth. Scientists think it was nuclear activity in the black hole at the Milky Way's center.

Date published: 2019-10-08
Originally published: Here. Excerpt below.

The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy may not be as peaceful as scientists thought.
Just 3.5 million years ago, the Milky Way's black hole produced a massive explosion that sent cones of radiation shooting through the galaxy and beyond, according to new research. It was recent in galactic terms — ancient ancestors of modern humans walked the Earth at the time. 
The explosion, likely due to nuclear activity, was so powerful that it stretched to the Magellanic Stream, a cosmic river of gas clouds 200,000 light-years outside the Milky Way. 
A study analyzing the explosion's impacts on the Magellanic Stream was posted in the online repository arXiv, which publishes research that has not yet been peer-reviewed. The study is awaiting publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
"These results dramatically change our understanding of the Milky Way," study co-author Magda Guglielmo said in a press release. "We always thought about our galaxy as an inactive galaxy, with a not so bright center. These new results instead open the possibility of a complete reinterpretation of its evolution and nature."
The Milky Way spiral
The team analyzed observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to reveal that some clouds in the Magellanic Stream are highly ionized — something removed or added electrons from their molecules to give them an electric charge.
Those ionized clouds are a pivotal piece of evidence for the nuclear explosion that previous findings had only hinted at.
Satellites have detected bubbles of gamma- and X-ray radiation extending up to 50,000 light-years above and below the plane of the galaxy. In 2013, scientists identified changes in the energy levels of hydrogen electrons along the part of the Magellanic Streamt that's in line with those radiation bubbles. They could tentatively attribute those changes to activity in the galaxy's black hole, but this new finding makes the picture much more clear.
The explosion created two c ...

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A huge explosion sliced through our galaxy just 3.5 million years ago, as human ancestors walked the Earth. Scientists think it was nuclear activity in the black hole at the Milky Way's center.

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