Mysterious light flash seen from black hole Sag A* at the heart of the Milky Way

The black hole at the centre of our Milky Way was seen and scientists are caught it growing 75 times brighter and subsiding. This is pretty unusual, according to astronomers, since the Milky Way’s black hole, Sagittarius A*, is tame and calm, and has pretty minimal fluctuations in brightness for as long as it has been observed.

Astronomer Tuan Do from the University of California, Los Angeles told ScienceAlert in an interview, “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 Sag 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.”

When asked when this light fluctuation took place, Do tweeted saying, “Depending on your point of view, this happened either on 13 May 2019 UT or 26,000 years ago.” He and his team observed this event when they were using the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii and took a time-lapse of two hours.

The light that can be seen in the video is actually from the gas and dust swirling around the black hole, and not the black hole itself. The flash of light could mean that something has gotten close enough to the black hole and fallen into it. But no one knows the exact reason.

Mysterious light flash seen from black hole Sag A* at the heart of the Milky Way

The supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* located in the middle of the Milky Way. Image credit: NASA

Astronomers still need plenty of data to confirm their theories about the lights flash — and the collection process is on.

There are only a few weeks left before the black hole will be visible from the Keck Observatory. Other telescopes, NASA’s Chandra, Spitzer, Swift, and ALMA, are all looking at Sag A* and their additional data should help get to the bottom of what caused the surprising event. Everything astronomer know about the occurrence was published in the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

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