Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, recently started feasting on matter around it with unprecedented voracity.
A team of scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles looked at 13,000 recordings of the Sag A* taken on 133 occasions over the last 16 years and found that it recently started glowing unusually bright, according to a pair of research papers published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. They suggest that it was in the middle of an unusually large feeding frenzy, according to a UCLA press release. While the scientists can guess what it’s been eating, they can’t yet explain the unusual appetite.
Black holes glow brighter when they’re taking in greater quantities of matter. That matter could have come from any combination of stars, asteroids, and cosmic gases that the scientists know passed near Sag A*. But the team doesn’t yet know whether an unusual amount of food happened to approach at once — or if something has changed within the Sag A* itself that’s making it hungrier than normal.
“The big question is whether the black hole is entering a new phase — for example if the spigot has been turned up and the rate of gas falling down the black hole ‘drain’ has increased for an extended period,” UCLA astronomer Mark Morris said in the press release, “or whether we have just seen the fireworks from a few unusual blobs of gas falling in.”
READ MORE: Black hole at the center of our galaxy appears to be getting hungrier [UCLA newsroom via Phys.org]
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