Astronomers noticed something they call “unprecedented” while observing the closest supermassive black hole to Earth this spring an eruption and massive burst of infrared radiation. And scientists can’t say what caused the flash.
The black hole is known as Sagittarius A* is situated in the middle of the Milky Way, just 26,000 light-years from Earth, based on NASA. Scientists studying the black hole for four days in April and May month of this year using the Keck II Telescope in Hawaii found the occasion.
While it has been identified to be “highly variable” for years, the new observations reached much “brighter flux levels” in 2019 than ever measured at that black hole before. The order of flux variations from the four nights is additionally described as “very unusual” compared to historical data from telescopes, including the Keck II. Tuan Do, an astronomer at UCLA who posted on social media he has been observing the black hole for years, posted on social media about the unlikely event Saturday. “The black hole is always uncertain, but this was the brightest scientists have seen in the infrared so far,” Do write. “It was probably even brighter before we started observing that night!
“In the study, the authors explain that the new analyses “push the limits” of the current “statistical models” and they might need to be “revised to gain a better understanding of the possibility of observing very high flux levels.” Moreover, the research suggests the models for the black hole’s variability should also be expanded to track changes over time.
While the scientists have not determined exactly why the flash occurred, do inform Science Alert he has a couple of the working theories.
The flash may have been caused by another star passing close by, thus changing the way gas flows into the black hole, mentioned Do. One other possibility is that the flash occurred due to a gas cloud, which additionally recently passed close to the black hole in 2014 — and is a delayed reaction to that event.
According to Do, different telescopes have been observing the black home over the summertime, and he is “eagerly awaiting their results,” he wrote on social media. Maybe then, with more information, astronomers will have a better concept of what happened to the black hole with about four million times the mass of the sun.