Researchers detect the brightest flare ever observed in our galaxy’s black hole

As black holes go, Sagittarius A is relatively low-key. The black hole at the center of our galaxy emits very little energy for its size, giving off roughly as much energy as the sun, even though it is 4 billion times as massive. However, astronomers have observed that nearly once a day, the black hole rouses to action, emitting a brief burst of light before settling back down. It’s unclear what causes such flare-ups, and scientists have sought to characterize these periodic bursts in order to better understand how black holes evolve.

Now a team of scientists from MIT, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Michigan and elsewhere have used NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory to detect the brightest flare ever observed from Sagittarius A . The flare, recorded 26,000 light years away, is 150 times brighter than the black hole’s normal luminosity. Scientists observed the flare for more than one hour before it faded away. This brief burst of activity, they say, may be a clue to how mature black holes like Sagittarius A behave.

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