X-ray Echoes of a Past Outburst of Sgr A*
15 Apr 2008
In a forthcoming paper, the history of the X-ray brightness of Sgr A*, the massive black hole at the heart of our Galaxy, is derived from observations made over a 11-year period by four X-ray observatories. The results are based on X-ray line emission from molecular clouds, considered to be reflecting Sgr A*’s X-ray emission with a delay time of 300 years.
Sgr A* is a compact radio source located at the dynamical centre of our Galaxy as confirmed by, for example, its apparent motion (solely due to our own motion around the Galactic centre) and the orbits of stars close to the Galactic centre. It is generally believed to be a massive black hole of several million solar masses.
Currently, Sgr A* is observed to be in a quiescent state. Its X-ray luminosity is several orders of magnitude below that of active galactic nuclei with a comparable sized black hole. This is the case even during the known frequent flaring events of Sgr A* when the flux increases by a factor of ~10. Observed events in our Galaxy’s central region actually occurred ~26 000 years ago as we are at a distance of about 8 kpc from the Galactic centre.
Carl Sagan was only half right. We need to be a two universe species not a two planet species.