Bubbles in the Milky Way

NASA astronomers have found the equivalent of a lost continent in space – a pair of colossal radioactive bubbles rising from the galaxy:

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way — a finding likened in terms of scale to the discovery of a new continent on Earth. The feature, which spans 50,000 light-years, may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy.

“What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center,” said Doug Finkbeiner, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who first recognized the feature. “We don’t fully understand their nature or origin.”

At more than 100 degrees across, the structure spans more than half of the sky, from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Grus. It may be millions of years old.

The bubbles also appear to have well-defined edges. Taken together, the structure’s shape and emissions suggest that it was formed as a result of a large and relatively rapid energy release — the source of which remains a mystery, Finkbeiner noted.

“Relatively rapid energy release” can be translated as “big freakin’ explosion” in American English.

More at the New York Times.