On the other side of the universe, a supermassive black hole is devouring enormous quantities of matter and spewing material in a jet that's 150 light years long. One scientist identifies the situation as "black hole indigestion," and boy, is it pretty.

The European Southern Observatory snapped some photos of the chaotic process using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. As the world's largest ground-based telescope array, the ALMA was able to produce an image showing in detail just how the black hole is bending matter in galaxy NGC 1433. They spotted similar activity in the galaxy PKS 1830-211, pictured in less dramatic resolution below. It was all a surprise to the European Space Organization scientists who observed it.


"The ALMA observation of this case of black hole indigestion has been completely serendipitous," said Sebastien Muller in a statement. "A very careful look at this unexpected behaviour led us to the conclusion that we were observing, just by a very lucky chance, right at the time when fresh new matter entered into the jet base of the black hole."

The new images from ALMA (pictured below) show off some of the unique capabilities of the massive telescope which will soon be reach full sensitivity when the rest of its 66 antennas going into service at the end of this year. And if this is what it can do with indigestion, imagine how some of space's more pleasant moments will look. [NBC News]


Images via ALMA