The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy emitted a bizarre flash of light, an astronomer studying the phenomenon said.
The flash likely occurred around May 13, and was uncharacteristic of the normal celestial behavior of the black hole, Sagittarius A, at the center of the galaxy, according to Science Alert.
“I was pretty surprised at first and then very excited,” Tuan Do, assistant researcher at the UCLA Division of Astronomy and Astrophysics, told Science Alert.
“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,” he continued.
Do and his team captured the anomaly at WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii. He tweeted a condensed time-lapse of the flash.
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
Do speculates that since the first frame taken during the observation was the black hole’s peak brightness, it could have been even brighter before they began observing it.
“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,” he added.
Scientists are continuing to gather more data on the event so a solid explanation can be reached.
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