Our Galaxy's Supermassive Black Hole Has Emitted a Mysteriously Bright Flare

Black hole illustration. A black hole is an object so compact that nothing can escape its gravitational pull. Not even light. This black hole is surrounded by a superheated disc of material an accretion disc making it visible

Black hole illustration. A black hole is an object so compact that nothing can escape its gravitational pull. Not even light. This black hole is surrounded by a superheated disc of material an accretion disc making it visible

Nearly 26,000 light years from Earth, Sagittarius A* - or Sgr A* - is typically fairly restrained as supermassive black holes go, but this past summer that has all been flipped.

The black hole at the centre of our Milky Way was seen and scientists are caught it growing 75 times brighter and subsiding. Another cause could be a change to its accretion state-how the black hole is drawing matter inwards.

'I was pretty surprised at first and then very excited, ' astronomer Tuan Do of the UCLA told ScienceAlert in a statement. The black hole is well-known to scientists, and was one of the subjects of our first ever efforts to image the cosmic beasts, but its still throwing up new mysteries all the time.

The galaxy, Holm 15A, sits around 700 million light-years away, making it somewhat hard to study in detail, but what scientists know for sure is that the black hole in its heart is the largest ever discovered. The team there managed to capture the unusual brightening and condensed two hours into a few seconds timelapse.

The only way to find out is having more data.

When we view that radiation with a telescope using the infrared range, it translates as brightness. It was probably even brighter before we started observing that night!,' said Do in a tweet. That's S0-2, a star on a long, looping, 16-year elliptical orbit around Sgr A*. Passing stars, orbiting around the black hole because of its incredible gravity, can end up donating their material to the disk as they graze by those forces, and it's theorized that this Sgr A* activity is because of an extra-large meal from one such pass.

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Sagittarius A*-the Milky Way's central black hole-is normally quite subdued, with low levels of activity recorded over years.

Do told ScienceAlert they are now waiting for data from other telescopes, including NASA's Spitzer and Chandra, to better understand what might have happened with Sagittarius A*.

The Galactic centre of the Milky Way is dominated by one resident, the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). While the supermassive black hole itself isn't visible, its so-called electromagnetic counterpart can be tracked.

Evidence of a black hole at the centre of our galaxy was first presented by physicist Karl Jansky in 1931, when he discovered radio waves coming from the region.

In fact, this was the focus of the scientist's initial readings - they were testing Einstein's theory of general relativity by seeing if the black hole would warp the approaching star's light. But they can still spew radiation from outside their event horizon, the result of interaction with gas and stars that come too close. It's huge, with a mass of 4 million times that of our Sun, but size is a relative thing when we're talking about the universe, and astronomers just spotted a black hole in a distant galaxy that puts ours to shame.

The captured material needs to lose heat and angular momentum before being able to plunge into the black hole.

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