According to data from NASA‘s Swift satellite, a huge black hole located about 7,800 light-years from Earth has re-awakened after 26 years of being dormant. The European Space Agency (ESA) describes the black hole as part of V404 Cygni, a binary system made of up the hole and a star. The last time activity was detected from V404 was in 1989, but as of June 15th, the Swift satellite is detecting new bursts of gamma rays.
The black hole is said to feed of matter from the star. The material starts swirling around the black hole, creating a visible disk and emitting x-ray and gamma-ray waves as it heats up before being swallowed up by the hole.
The ESA’s Erik Kuulkers says that the bright flashes of light coming from V404 are rarely seen in other black hole systems, and that they are producing “the brightest object in the X-ray sky.” The Crab Nebula is normally seen as the brightest source in the high-energy sky, but Kuulkers says that V404’s bursts are as much as fifty times brighter.
With V404 going quiet in 1989, scientists say they are still eager to learn about these bursts of activity. It is currently theorized that they are caused by the material swirling around the black hole reaching critical mass, in turn changing the rate at which the material is absorbed, and causing it to flash.
The ESA notes that they are getting assistance from astronomers all around the world in observing the black hole’s outbursts. Now that V404 is active once again, this is their chance to try understanding the phenomenon.