Astronomers witness black hole awakening for the first time

Astronomers witness black hole awakening for the first time
Astronomers witness black hole awakening for the first time

A black hole 360 million light years away from Earth suddenly begun shining brighter and consuming material within its pull. Scientists say it’s the first time they’ve witnessed the phenomenon in real time.

Scientists have witnessed a supermassive black hole awakening for the first time.

In a galaxy in the Virgo constellation some 360 million light-years away from Earth, scientists noticed the black hole was shining brighter than ever before.

“We were able to observe the awakening of the massive black hole, [which] suddenly started to feast on gas available in its surroundings, becoming very bright,” said Claudio Ricci, an astrophysicist who co-authored a study into the phenomenon that was published on Tuesday.

“This behavior is unprecedented,” added Paula Sanchez Saez, another astronomer closely involved in the study.

What do we know about the black hole?

The black hole is about 1.5 million times heavier than the sun, yet it is still on the lighter side compared to its peers. For comparison, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way — our galaxy — has a mass four million times greater than the sun.

The environment around a supermassive black hole can be extremely violent as they tear apart stars and anything else within their gravitational grasp.

Researchers pointed to this and said a spinning disk of diffuse material had formed the black hole at the center of the SDSS1335+0728 galaxy.

Such areas of activity radiate energy at very high temperatures. They can even outshine galaxies themselves.

What does this mean for Earth?

An international team of astronomers is now analyzing data from a number of telescopes to see if the black hole’s activity is temporary or if it will continue for the foreseeable future.

Most galaxies are believed to have a black hole at their core, including the Milky Way.

“This is something that could happen also to our own Sagittarius A*,” said study co-author Lorena Hernandez Garcia, referring to the black hole that lies at the Milky Way’s core.

But for now, the black hole in our cosmic neighborhood remains dormant.

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