Scientists are a step closer to understanding how supermassive black holes behave after taking a photo of the phenomena, showing that it blasts a jet of material similar to a fighter jet's afterburner exhaust.
Curtin University researcher Leith Godfrey said the jets of material needed to be understood if scientists were to understand how galaxies formed and grew.
A photo published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters over the weekend showed the galaxy-scale jet had bright and dark regions, similar to the phenomenon in an afterburner exhaust called "shock diamonds" whereby the differing pressure of gas hitting ambient air pressure creates disc-like shapes.
"One intriguing possibility is that the pattern we see in this cosmic jet is produced in the same way as the pattern in the exhaust from fighter jet engines," Dr Godfrey said in a statement on Monday.
The jets were produced when material fell on to a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy, he said. Details beyond that were unknown.
"Massive jets like this one have been studied for decades, since the beginning of radio astronomy, but we still don't understand exactly how they are produced or what they're made of," he said.
"If the brighter patches are caused by the same process in astronomical jets as they are in earthly jet engines, then the distance between them can give us important information about the power of the jet and the density of the surrounding space."
The jets were extremely powerful and were believed to stop stars forming in their parent galaxy, limiting how big the galaxies could grow and effecting how the universe looked today, he said.
University of Tasmania researcher and co-author Dr Jim Lovell said the next step was understanding how the jets emitted excessive amounts of X-ray radiation.