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Astronomers notice "unprecedented" bright flashes in the black hole of our galaxy



Astronomers never know exactly what to expect when pointing a telescope in a particular direction – and sometimes what they see is completely unexpected.

In this case, astronomers used the very large Chile telescope at the Southern Chilean Observatory and the Hawaiian Kek Observatory to observe a supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy.

It is located 26,000 light-years from Earth, but it is the closest black hole we can see, even if it is largely obscured by dust. He was observed for four nights in April and May.

Impression of a star artist who takes her closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way in 2018. CNN
Impression of a star artist who takes her closest approach to the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way in 2018. CNN (Delivered)

This black hole, known as Sgr A *, shows variability before.

It has been observed for many years along many wavelengths of light. But on three of the four nights they observed it in near-infrared, which is the most effective way to see the variability in the black hole, astronomers notice "unprecedented" changes.

The unusually bright levels of flow and variability showed peaks that exceeded twice the historical measurements of the black hole.

What astronomers saw was the eruption of the black hole, which emitted bright radiation. In addition to these bright levels, on two nights in May, they also saw large drops in brightness over the course of minutes.

Some of the astronomers involved in the study, including Tuan Do of the University of California, Los Angeles, who initially drew attention to the outbreak by tweeting about it, have been watching the black hole for years. And they've never seen anything like it.

The data is different from previous observations of the black hole that have been collected in other studies. And what happened? That's the big mystery, and astronomers don't know the answer. In the study, they suggested that statistical models of the black hole and its variability should be updated to track these changes in luminosity.

"The 2019 measurements push the boundaries of current statistical models," the study wrote. Alternatively, there was a physical change in the black hole activity.

Is it because of the increase in material collection? Astronomers said more data, especially for many wavelengths of light, could provide more answers for the rest of the year and in the future.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019


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