The supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy suddenly glowed far, far brighter than normal - becoming 75 times more luminescent - before going back to normal.
Scientists are trying to figure out why. It’s the brightest ‘glow’ ever seen from the black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, measured in near-infrared wavelengths.
Tuan Do of the University of California Los Angeles told ScienceAlert of the event that happened in May, ‘I was pretty surprised at first and then very excited.
‘The black hole was so bright I at first mistook it for the star S0-2, because I had never seen Sgr A* that bright.
‘Over the next few frames, though, it was clear the source was variable and had to be the black hole.
‘I knew almost right away there was probably something interesting going on with the black hole.’
Here's a timelapse of images over 2.5 hr from May from @keckobservatory of the supermassive black hole Sgr A*. The black hole is always variable, but this was the brightest we've seen in the infrared so far. It was probably even brighter before we started observing that night! pic.twitter.com/MwXioZ7twV
— Tuan Do (@quantumpenguin) August 11, 2019
Sagittarius A* is thought to pull in stars, gas clouds and planets, devouring them with its huge gravity.
Supermassive black holes are common in the centers of galaxies and may generate the most energetic phenomena in the known universe.
Researchers believe that the strange ‘glow’ may relate to gas clouds or stars which orbit the enormous black hole.
Do told Science Alert, ‘One of the possibilities, is that the star S0-2, when it passed close to the black hole last year, changed the way gas flows into the black hole, and so more gas is falling on it, leading it to become more variable.’