Filaments structures Milky Way Black Hole

Astrophysicists Discover New “Structures” Pointing to Milky Way’s Black Hole

An international team of researchers has recently unveiled a groundbreaking discovery that illuminates the intricate connection between filament structures and supermassive black holes. This groundbreaking revelation opens up new avenues of understanding and exploration into the cosmic phenomena that govern our universe. By unraveling the complex web of filaments surrounding these colossal entities, scientists have taken a significant step forward in comprehending the mechanisms that shape galaxies and the fundamental forces that drive their evolution.


In a landmark discovery, hundreds of unique structures — filaments — spanning 5 to 10 light-years have been found strewn along our galaxy’s plane. They all seem to be linked to the heart of our Milky Way, its supermassive black hole. These structures possibly emerged millions of years ago, when the black hole’s outflow interacted with materials in its vicinity.

This breakthrough comes from an international consortium of astrophysicists who have unveiled something unprecedented nestled within the Milky Way.


In the 1980s, Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University discovered colossal, one-dimensional filaments in the Milky Way, hanging vertically near Sagittarius A*, our galaxy’s central supermassive black hole. Yusef-Zadeh and his team have now spotted an additional set of filaments — shorter and aligned horizontally or radially, radiating out from the black hole like spokes on a wheel.

The filaments of the Milky Way

Despite similarities between the two filament groups, Yusef-Zadeh postulates disparate origins. The towering vertical filaments, extending up to 150 light-years, sweep across our galaxy, while the horizontal ones, akin to Morse code, mark only one side of Sagittarius A*. The Astrophysical Journal Letters published this study on June 2.

Yusef-Zadeh expressed his amazement, saying, “We were stunned to discover a new population of structures seemingly pointing at the black hole. The Milky Way’s filaments are not random, and we believe they are connected to the black hole’s outflow. Studying them will help us understand more about the black hole’s spin and accretion disk orientation.”

Discoveries Aided by Enhanced Radio Astronomy Technology

Yusef-Zadeh, an esteemed professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a member of CIERA, has made significant contributions in unveiling mysteries in our galaxy’s heart. His recent study builds on four decades of rigorous research.


He attributes the surge in new discoveries to advancements in radio astronomy technology, particularly the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory’s MeerKAT telescope. This tool was instrumental in isolating the filaments from their surrounding structures by eliminating the background and smoothing the noise in the images.

After decades of studying the vertical filaments, Yusef-Zadeh was astounded to stumble upon their horizontal counterparts, which he believes to be approximately 6 million years old.

Contrasting Traits of Vertical and Horizontal Filaments

Although both filament populations can be viewed through radio waves and are linked to activities in the galactic center, their similarities end there.

The vertical filaments run perpendicular to the galactic plane; the horizontal filaments run parallel to the plane but point radially toward the galaxy’s center. The vertical filaments are magnetic and relativistic, whereas the horizontal ones emit thermal radiation.

In terms of quantity, vertical filaments far outnumber their horizontal counterparts. However, in size, the vertical filaments dwarf the horizontal ones. The vertical filaments decorate the galaxy’s nucleus, while the horizontal ones seem to spread out only to one side, aiming toward the black hole.

New Discovery Raises New Questions

Yusef-Zadeh said, “The radial outflow we detected has significant implications for the orientation of the accretion disk and the jet-driven outflow from Sagittarius A* along the galactic plane.”


This discovery, bursting with unknowns, has only scratched the surface, and Yusef-Zadeh’s endeavor to decode its mysteries has just commenced. He conjectures that the new filaments likely originated from an activity occurring a few million years ago.

Yusef-Zadeh concludes, “It seems the result of that outflowing material interacting with nearby objects. We continuously need to make new observations, challenge our ideas, and refine our analysis.” The study was supported by NASA (award number 80GSFC21M0002). The SARAO is a facility of the National Research Foundation, an agency of the Department of Science and Innovation.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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