Skip to comments.Milky Way's monster black hole awoke 300 years ago
Posted on 04/15/2008 12:33:38 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
PARIS (AFP) - A black hole slumbering at the centre of our galaxy went into a "feeding frenzy" three centuries ago, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Tuesday.
Located around 26,000 light years from Earth, the black hole, known as Sagittarius A-star (Sgr A*), is a monster with a mass four million times that of the Sun.
Japanese astronomers, using ESA's XMM-Newton orbital telescope and US and Japanese X-ray satellites, discovered that clouds of gas brightened and faded in X-ray light when they passed near Sgr A*'s maw, ESA said in a press release.
The phenomenon is due to X-ray pulses that are believed to be residual bursts from a flare that happened 300 years ago.
"We have wondered why the Milky Way's black hole appears to be a slumbering giant," team leader Tatsuya Inui of Kyoto University said.
"But now we realise that the black hole was far more active in the past. Perhaps it's just resting after a major outburst."
One theory is that a few centuries ago, the powerful gravitational pull of the black hole engulfed clouds of gas from an exploding star called a supernova, ESA said.
The "temporary feeding frenzy" caused X-ray energy to leap from its mouth in a giant flare.
Wouldn’t that really be 26,300 years ago?
Man, I was late to the party.
Further evidence leading to their decision:
I guess the part about going on a “feedling frenzy” made me think of Michael Moore.
FEEDING frenzy, not “feedling”
I’ll blame the journo for this blooper: It is impossible to determine what took place 300 years ago on an object that is 26,000 light years away.
It can't be quite that simple or the gas cloud would be behind the black hole.
The X-rays from the 'feeding frenzy' are long gone. Humans were too busy killing each other to notice. If we had we might be able to use this pulse as a fine calibration tool on distances at the galactic center. We still can, it will just take many years and additional gas clouds lighting up.
In any case I'm inclined to give the journalist a pass on this one. If the journalist had actually understood he or she would have been unable to convey it to the public without resorting to some lame metaphor (cosmic echo) that would only serve to get the mouth breathers to think they understand.
They should include a diagram. Language is a really blunt instrument.
Hehe! I think they need a new science editor.
Karl Schwarzschild could have supplied an equation to explain it.
A flare affecting something 26,000 light years away?
WOW! News travels fast.
Maybe this was a very resourceful reporter who knew some trade secrets about how to get the scoop first ;-)
I notice they also had to tell us there was an exploding star, called a supernova. Everyone I know, and pretty much everyone who is going to bother reading this article, already knows what a supernova is. Except the guy who wrote the article, I guess.
Carl Sagan was only half right. We need to be a two universe species not a two planet species.
What is the chance that clouds of gas exist between us and the supernova, with a 300-light-year added path difference compared to straight line-of-sight with the supernova? As seen by us, those clouds would be lighting up right now in the reflected light of the supernova, which may be detectable. If the clouds were large, we should see a spherical shell of illumination traversing them (at the speed of light). Parts would light up or disappear as the supernova’s light hit new patches, or traversed beyond the spatial extent of patches previously illuminated.
Remind me in 26,699 years.
The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes:
Flood, Fire, and Famine
in the History of Civilization
by Richard Firestone,
Allen West, and