Two black holes are feasting more frantically – and one is close to Earth

Brittany A. Roston - Sep 11, 2019, 7:58 pm CDT
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Two black holes are feasting more frantically – and one is close to Earth

Scientists have detailed two different studies this week involving black holes, one that focuses on the black hole located at the center of our galaxy, another that is located in the center of a galaxy located millions of light-years away. Though they’re located far apart, these two black holes have something in common: they’re both hungry as evidenced by their unusual consumption habits. Researchers with UCLA say the black hole at the center of our galaxy is having a ‘big feast’ unlike anything previously observed.

The first of the two reports comes from UCLA, where researchers have been studying the supermassive black hole located at the center of the Milky Way. According to astronomers, this black hole is the hungriest it has been in the last 24 years of observation and it’s currently feasting on dust and interstellar gas.

Ordinarily, the scientists explain, this supermassive black hole has a relatively slim diet. That has changed, with scientists observing multiple times this year periods when the point of no return outside the black hole has been glowing brightly, three changes that are called unprecedented. The increased activity may be due to a nearby star called S0-2 or a binary system called G2.

The second report comes from NASA, which says that a black hole located at the center of a faraway galaxy called GSN 069 is gobbling up the nearby matter at a very rapid pace. This is likewise a supermassive black hole, one that has been observed as consuming the amount of material equivalent to four of Earth’s Moon approximately three times every day.

Put into numbers — ones that would be hard to fathom — that’s around one million billion pounds of material going into the supermassive black hole every time it eats. The ESA’s Giovanni Miniutti says the diet is ‘like we’ve never seen before,’ one ‘so unprecedented that we had to coin a new expression to describe it.”

That expression is ‘X-ray Quasi-Periodic Eruptions’ and it was first detected in GSN 069 last December. Study co-author Margherita Giustini said, ‘We think the origin of the X-ray emission is a star that the black hole has partially or completely torn apart and is slowly consuming bit by bit.’


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