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The astronomers of UCLA declared on September 11, 2019 that they discovered the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy having an uncommon large meal of interstellar gas and dust. The discovery was found on May 13 (although of course it happened some 25,000 years ago earlier, since the center of the galaxy is about 25,000 light-years away).
“We have never seen anything like this in the 24 years we have studied the supermassive black hole. It’s usually a pretty quiet, wimpy black hole on a diet. We don’t know what is driving this big feast.”
According to earthsky.org “The black hole – called Sagittarius A*, pronounced Sagittarius A-star – became extremely bright in May 2019, growing 75 times as bright for a few hours”.
Astronomer Tuan Do is lead author of new research describing this occasion, published September 11 in Astrophysical Journal Letters. She said: “We have never seen anything like this in the 24 years we have studied the supermassive black hole. It’s usually a pretty quiet, wimpy black hole on a diet. We don’t know what is driving this big feast”.
Scientists analyzed 13,000 observations of the black hole from 133 nights since 2003. The images were gathered by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.
The team found that on May 13, the area just outside the black hole’s ‘point of no return’ (so called because once matter enters, it can never escape) was twice as bright as the next-brightest observation.
“They observed large changes on two other nights this year; all three of those changes were ‘unprecedented,” Ghez said.
Source: Text; earthsky.org
Image credit; earthsky.org
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