A team of astronomers has detected detected huge outflows of charged particles streaming out of the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The outflows were detected using the CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope in Australia, and the new research has been published today in the journal Nature.
"These outflows contain an extraordinary amount of energy - about a million times the energy of an exploding star," said Ettore Carretti, the CSIRO research team's leader. The CSIRO, or Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is Australia's national science agency.
The particles are streaming out of the galactic center at 1000 kilometers per second.
That's fast, even for astronomers," said Carretti. "They are not coming in our direction, but go up and down from the Galactic Plane. We are 30,000 light-years away from the galactic center, in the plane. They are no danger to us."
Astronomers have shown that the outflows cover around two-thirds of the sky, from horizon to horizon. The radiation from the outflows also corresponds to previously-measured microwave emissions and gamma-ray emissions measured by NASA's Fermi telescope in 2010. Those measurements were not enough to determine the source of the radiation, but the new Parkes observations, by measuring the polarization of the outflows, have provided evidence that the radiation is from the galactic center.
"The options were a quasar-like outburst from the black hole at the Galactic Center, or star-power - the hot winds from young stars, and exploding stars," said Gianni Bernardi a research team member at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Our observations tell us it's star-power."
According to astronomers, the outflows have been created by generations of stars that have formed and exploded near the galactic center in the past 100 million years. Taken as a whole, the outflows extend 50,000 light-years out of the galactic plane.