Mystery Galactic Gamma-ray ‘Bubbles’ Defy Explanation

Aug 12, 2014

By Ian O’Neill

In 2010, astronomers announced the discovery of two vast — and very mysterious — bubbles of gamma-ray emissions towering above and below our galaxy’s disk. Four years on, after oodles of analysis, the source of these bubbles is as mysterious as ever.

The scale of these gamma-ray structures is truly mind-blowing. Apparently originating directly from the galactic core, the two lobes extend tens of thousands of light-years into intergalactic space. They both generate gamma-ray radiation at an astonishing luminosity, “like two 30,000-light-year-tall incandescent bulbs screwed into the center of the galaxy,” according to a Stanford University news release.

The discovery was made by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Observatory that orbits the Earth away from our planet’s gamma-ray absorbing atmosphere. Without Fermi, we wouldn’t have even been aware of these giant structures.

Since their discovery by Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT), it was assumed that an ancient eruption by the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole may have energized galactic matter, inflating these two energetic bubbles. But since astronomers have been studying the nature of these features, their origin is as foggy as ever.

7 comments on “Mystery Galactic Gamma-ray ‘Bubbles’ Defy Explanation

  • @OP- Anti-theist preacher Aug 14, 2014 at 10:18 am

    nice picture of another galaxy with the two ´bulbs ´.. seeing as we cannot make pictures of our own galaxy,

    That’s not entirely true:
    Touring the Milky Way now is as easy as clicking a button with NASA’s new zoomable, 360-degree mosaic presented Thursday at the TEDActive 2014 Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

    The star-studded panorama of our galaxy is constructed from more than 2 million infrared snapshots taken over the past 10 years by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

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  • Actually it appears to be a picture of the milky way as visible from hubble, with 2 big purple bubbles attached… don’t know how they made the image but I hope they took those 2 bubbles from the lat satellite imagery a day superimposed them. But answer your statement yes you can take pictures of our galaxy, just not from any other angle but the one you see here. But we do know enough of about our galaxy to create 3 dimensional models of it and I did see that 3rd model by NASA that you could explore and interact with.

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