A supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way has just woken up and flashes 75 times brighter than ever after it has been silent for more than 20 years and astounded astronomers.
Sagittarius A *, a supermassive black hole weighing about 4 million solar masses, is usually cautious with minimal variations in brightness. But lately, for no apparent reason, it has brightened 75 times brighter than ever before. Earlier this year, Tuan Do, an astronomer at UCLA, and his team spent four nights observing the galactic center in Hawaii using the WM Keck Observatory. The team watched the bizarre flash on May 13 and captured it in a two-hour timelapse that reduced the phenomenon to just a few seconds. The " unprecedented " results have now been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Here is a timelapse of images over 2.5 hours from May of @keckobservatory of the supermassive Black Hole Sgr. A *. The black hole is always variable, but this was the brightest we've ever seen in the infrared. It was probably even brighter when we started watching this night! pic.twitter.com/MwXioZ7twV
̵1; Tuan Do (@quantumpenguin) August 11, 2019
As Do explains, the footage begins with Sgr A * in its brightest form, meaning that it could have been even brighter before the team began their observations. Astronomers are now gathering data to determine exactly what caused the sudden flare, though there are several theories.
brighter, "Do told New Scientist. There is also the possibility that the black hole will finally consume a gas cloud called G2, which approached Sgr A * in 2014.
The ground-based Keck Observatory will continue to observe the Milky Way Center until it is no longer visible from Earth at night. In the meantime, many other space telescopes, Spitzer, Chandra, Swift and ALMA, also observed the galactic center and may have collected data that could explain what Sgr A * is doing.
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