Milky Way’s Black Hole Has Growing Appetite; Threat To Earth?

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The supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy was seen to be flaring last week, but no one knew why. Astronomers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have now shed some light on this unprecedented event. A short video provided by UCLA research scientist Tuan Do shows how the black hole is feasting on an unusually large meal of interstellar gas and dust.

Milky Way’s Black Hole Has Growing Appetite

 

Supermassive Black Hole Is Getting Hungrier

The supermassive black hole called the Sagittarius A* or Sgr A* black hole, in comparison, is a gentler celestial giant. The short video of the black hole captured at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii shows that black hole's 'point of no return' (named so because once matter enters, it can never escape) was blazing on May 13.

An analysis of nearly 13,000 observations recorded for 133 nights was traced, which showed that only on May 13 and on two other nights, the black hole glowed twice as bright as usual. In fact, Tuan Do mistook the blazing black hole for a star, which he had never seen so bright.

Supermassive Black Hole Brightens Up: Some Hypothetical Explanations

The observation tells us that the supermassive black hole is consuming more dust and gas on these particular nights than usual. As per the scientists, the brightness is caused by radiation from gas and dust falling into the black hole. The findings further question whether the event was an extraordinary singular one or a precursor to significantly increased activity.

 

One of the hypothesis suggests it could be because of the star S0-2, orbiting the black hole. However, the star didn't fall in, but closed in on its approach, a reason why the astronomers feel the black hole is getting hungrier.

Another hypothesis suggests it could involve a bizarre object called G2, a composition of binary stars. The G2 has closely approached the Sgr A* black hole back in 2014. Andrea Ghez, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a co-senior author of the research suspects that the black hole could have stripped off the outer layer of G2 leading to the black hole's spike in brightness.

Is It A Danger To Earth?

The supermassive black hole is around 26,000 light-years away from the Earth at the moment. Tuan Do says that the black hole poses no threat to our planet. And, to affect Earth, the radiation would have to be 10 billion times brighter, he said.

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