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Supermasisve Blackhole in Milky Way Suddenly Flares Up, Scientists Baffled

The closest super-massive black hole to Earth, called Sagittarius A* suddenly got 75 times brighter than normal along the near-infrared region of the light spectrum.

Updated:August 19, 2019, 11:44 AM IST
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Supermasisve Blackhole in Milky Way Suddenly Flares Up, Scientists Baffled
Image credit: Twitter/Tuan Do
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While the super-massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way is generally quiet, in May, it surprised astronomers with a sudden explosion of infrared light.

The closest super-massive black hole to Earth, called Sagittarius A* suddenly got 75 times brighter than normal along the near-infrared region of the light spectrum, according to a report in Business Insider. The light blazed for two hours on May 13, a team of scientist has found.

According to a paper published on August 5, in arXiv, titled Unprecedented variability of Sgr A* in NIR, a Cornell University study paper, that is yet to be peer reviewed, stated that it was the brightest flash scientists had seen in 20 years of observing the black hole.

Speaking to ScienceAlert, Tuan Do, the lead author of the study said that the black hole was so bright that at first Do mistook it as being the Star S0-2. "I knew almost right away there was probably something interesting going on with the black hole," the study author was quoted as saying.

According to study experts, the new findings push limits of current statistical models since they do not accounting for infrared flux levels that high. According to the paper, the new discovery suggests scientists; understanding of the galaxy's central black hole is not updated.

According to the paper, the proximity of Sgr A* makes it the easiest black hole for scientists to study and the team that discovered this unprecedented flare-up for four nights with an infrared camera at the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Do tweeted a time lapse of the event on Saturday as well.

Speaking to Vice, Do said they believe something unusual might be happening this year because the black hole seems to vary in brightness more, reaching brighter levels than ever before.

In black holes, matters get packed into tiny spaces, giving them extremely powerful gravity. In fact, the pull of a black hole is so strong that even light cannot escape it. The researchers, however, opine that n interaction with a nearby star that passed near Sgr A* in 2018 could have disturbed gas flows at the edge of the black hole's grasp and led to the flare up.

The scientists also pointed at a dust cloud that passed near Sgr A* in 2014 which did not get dramatically torn apart the way the astronomers thought it would and the brightness could be a delayed reaction to it, they wrote in the paper.

Notably, in 2013, scientists detected an equally mysterious X-ray flare-up from Sgr A*, which was 400 times brighter than its normal levels of X-ray radiation.

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