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Writer Fuel: Astronomers Find New Invisible Filaments at the Heart of the Milky Way

Radio observations of the Milky Way's center, including hundreds of newly discovered filaments (the smaller, yellowish lines and dots). (Image credit: Farhad Yusef-Zadeh/Northwestern University)

Astronomers have discovered hundreds of strange, stringlike structures at the center of our galaxy, possibly tracing the violent path of an ancient black hole eruption.

According to new research published June 2 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, each of these previously unknown “filaments” measures between 5 and 10 light-years in length — thousands of times the distance between the sun and Pluto — but is visible only in radio wavelengths, meaning the structures were likely created by bursts of high-energy particles that are invisible to the naked eye.

When seen together, the hundreds of crackling filaments seem to point directly at our galaxy’s central supermassive black hole, suggesting that they may be the unhealed scars of an ancient, high-energy black hole outburst that tore through the surrounding clouds of gas.

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