The largest X-ray flare ever from the “supermassive” black hole at the center of the Milky Way has been detected, NASA said today.
According to the space agency, the black hole — known as Sagittarius A*, which contains about 4.5 million times the mass of the sun — may have caught and destroyed a huge asteroid.
“If an asteroid was torn apart, it would go around the black hole for a couple of hours — like water circling an open drain — before falling in,” M.I.T scientist Fred Baganoff, and one of the researchers involved in making the discovery, said. “That’s just how long we saw the brightest X-ray flare last.”
Another theory behind the giant flare, which was spotted using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, is that gases flowing towards the black hole became tightly packed and tangled.
While it’s not entirely clear what is behind the giant flare, it’s an opportunity to learn about the behavior of Sagittarius A*, according to Gabriele Ponti, another of the researchers: “Such rare and extreme events give us a unique chance to use a mere trickling of infalling matter to understand the physics of one of the most bizarre objects in our galaxy.”
Although your personal electronic devices may act up from time to time, NASA didn’t give any indication of any impact to Earth from the flare-up.
The research results were presented today at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.