Black Hole at the Center of the Galaxy Increases in Activity by a Factor of 3

A supermassive black hole located at the center of our galaxy has increased in activity by a factor of three, leaving experts stumped.

According to astronomers, a supermassive black hole located at the heart of our galaxy, and located some 26,000 light-years away from Earth has progressively increased in activity emitting high-energy X-ray flares in recent years.

Astronomers from France and Belgium have recently published a new study on the X-Ray monitoring of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy dubbed Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*).

The researchers have revealed that the frequency of the “most luminous and most energetic flares” of X-rays originating from Sgr A* since August 2014 has progressed by a factor of three.

“We detected 9 flares in the Chandra data and 5 flares in the Swift data that we added to the set of 107 previously detected flares,” the researchers wrote in the study.

This discovery, say scientists, is a monumental discovery but it also raises a number of additional questions astronomers have not been able to answer.

“Additional multi-wavelength data are required to conclude on the persistence of this increase and to obtain clues on the source of this unprecedented activity of the supermassive black hole,” the scientists explained in the study.

Potential reasons for the increase in bright flares could be linked with the transition of asteroids, other celestial bodies or the accretion disk—an area around the black hole that holds gas, dust and other stellar debris that has been flattened and spin around the body.

The First image of a black hole. Image Credit: NSF.
The First image of a black hole. Image Credit: NSF.

This new knowledge builds on previous research that was co-authored by the study’s lead researcher, Enmanuelle Mossoux of the University of Liège in Belgium. Mossoux’s previous work studied X-ray data from Sgr A* gathered by the Chandra, XMM-Newton and Swift observatories from 1999 to 2015.

The new study, titled “Continuation of the X-ray monitoring of Sgr A*: the increase in bright flaring rate confirmed,” will shortly be peer-reviewed and is expected to be published in the International Journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Scientists concluded that the x-ray activity of the supermassive black hole has increased for more than four years, but additional studies about the overall near.-infrared and radio behavior of Sagittarius A* are required in order to draw strong results on the multi-wavelength activity of the black hole.

Sagittarius A* is located near the border of the constellation of Sagittarius and Scorpius. The supermassive black hole is simar to other generally accepted cosmic bodies that are believed to exist at the centers of most—if not all—spiral and elliptical galaxies in the universe.

Although scientists have not been able to observe the black hole at the center of the galaxy, astronomical observations of stars orbiting the Black Hole—most notably a star called S2—have offered evidence for the presence of the central supermassive black hole and has led experts to conclude that Sagittarius A* is beyond any reasonable doubt the site of that black hole. In other words, although the black hole cannot be observed directly, its nature can be inferred from the pattern of motion of the stars that surround it.

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