Astronomers Have Witnessed A Black Hole 'Blink' For The First Time Ever

Astronomers Have Witnessed A Black Hole 'Blink' For The First Time Ever

NASA explained that this enormous burst of energy would have been unleashed about 3.5 million years ago.

There is a lot that humans do not know but every day they learn and discover something new. With advancements in technology, humankind is slowly but steadily uncovering the secrets of the universe. But the most intriguing things to exist in the universe are black holes. A black hole is one thing we cannot open up and observe. Only recently did technological advancements allow us to take a picture of a black hole, a phenomenon that is difficult to capture on account of its general nature to absorb even light. Now, astronomers have observed that the black hole at the center of our universe is blinking, or rather, winking at us.



What this means is that the supermassive black hole was observed by astronomers suddenly snuff out and then gradually return to brightness again. MIT astronomers and elsewhere watched as this supermassive black hole’s own corona, "the ultrabright, billion-degree ring of high-energy particles that encircles a black hole’s event horizon" was abruptly destroyed, MIT News reported. The astronomers are baffled by this sudden surge and do not have a clear explanation for it yet. This novel phenomenon was observed over a period of 40 days as the corona was plunged in light and then went on to shine brighter than before.



“We expect that luminosity changes this big should vary on timescales of many thousands to millions of years,” Erin Kara, assistant professor of physics at MIT said. "But in this object, we saw it change by 10,000 over a year, and it even changed by a factor of 100 in eight hours, which is just totally unheard of and really mind-boggling." NASA explained that this enormous burst of energy would have been unleashed about 3.5 million years ago. Our primitive ancestors would have probably witnessed this flare as a "ghostly glow" high overhead in the constellation Sagittarius. There is also possible that this glow persisted for 1 million years.



"The flash was so powerful that it lit up the stream like a Christmas tree — it was a cataclysmic event!" said Principal Investigator Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. "This shows us that different regions of the galaxy are linked — what happens in the galactic center makes a difference to what happens out in the Magellanic Stream. We're learning about how the black hole impacts the galaxy and its environment." In 2018, the All-Sky Automated Survey for Super-Novae (ASASSN) noted something strange with the black hole, as it recorded 40 times its normal brightness. This is something the astronomers had never seen before but think it could be a runaway star being consumed by the black hole.



"We just don't normally see variations like this in accreting black holes," said astrophysicist Claudio Ricci of Diego Portales University in Chile, and lead author of the study. "It was so strange that at first, we thought maybe there was something wrong with the data. When we saw it was real, it was very exciting. But we also had no idea what we were dealing with; no one we talked to had seen anything like this." Michael Loewenstein, a coauthor of the study added, "This new study is a great example of how flexibility in observation scheduling allows NASA and ESA missions to study objects that evolve relatively quickly and look for longer-term changes in their average behavior."


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