Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole Emitted A Mysterious Flash

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Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole Emitted A Mysterious Flash

Supermassive black holes are common in the centers of galaxies and may generate the most energetic phenomena in the known universe.

The black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*, is approximately 4 million times the mass of the Sun. Suddenly, the Sagittarius A* grew 75 times brighter, before going back to its normal brightness shortly.

Do's team used the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii to catch the mysterious energy burst that Sgr A* emitted.

S0-2 has been spotted a mere 17 light-hours away from the center as recently as past year, and it's possible that the star's close relationship with the black hole has led to an increase in gas being swallowed up by it, which may have led to a burst of radiation visible using infrared. Normally, the brightness of Sgr A* flickers a bit like a candle, varying from minutes to hours. According to researchers, due to the close passage of S0-2 near Sagittarius A* could be a different method of gas supply into the black hole; this might have led to the fact that gas was to do more, and Sagittarius A* became more variable. Another cause could be a change to its accretion state-how the black hole is drawing matter inwards. However, in May, scientists from all around the world detected an "unprecedented" bright flash coming from the black hole.

The team is busily gathering data to try and narrow it down, but there are two immediate possibilities.

Sagittarius A* is thought to pull in stars, gas clouds and planets, devouring them with its huge gravity.

The other possibility according to Tuan Do, is the star S0-2, which had passed close to the black Hole previous year, it may have changed the way gas flows into the Back Hole, so more gas is falling on it, leading it to become more variable, as per the report. Even if it was a gas cloud, the proximity should have torn it to shreds and some of it sucked in by the black hole, but nothing happened.

Owing to the existence of sophisticated technology and a culmination of brilliant and intuitive minds yearning to piece together this cosmic mystery, black holes are widely monitored with everything about them being recorded, studied and documented.

But - have a look at the timelapse again.

According to the researchers, the sudden flash is as mysterious as it is anomalous, but they hypothesize that it could be spurred by the close approach of a star called S0-2. See that bright dot at around 11 o'clock from the black hole? It made its closest approach yet past year, coming within 17 light hours of the event horizon.

The only way to find out is having more data. More observations will take place over the coming weeks with the ground-based Keck Observatory before the galactic centre is no longer visible at night from Earth.

The paper has been accepted into The Astrophysical Journal Letters, and is available on arXiv.

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