Milky Way Black Hole lights up

There is not much going on at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, at least to the perception of the human eye. But a few months ago in May, there was a massive light show coming from the galaxy’s black hole.

Sagittarius A is the closest black hole to Earth that we know about. It is positioned in the center of the galaxy. A feature shared by a great many galaxies, in fact. Sagittarius A presented 75 times more light than usual. The light was picked up by telescopes on the infrared spectrum. This happened on the 13th of May and lasted for a period of 2 hours.

Astronomers have been observing Sagittarius A for 20 years and this display of brightness is the most potent that has ever been recorded. One astronomer said that he first confused the black hole for a nearby star because of the unusual brightness.

Black hole phenomenon

Science knows very little about black holes and much of that is theoretical. The only characteristic that such a cosmic formation displays is light. This is not light that it generates, rather it is light from gas clouds that are being sucked into the event horizon in a spiraling motion.

This, in turn, leads scientists to form theories about black holes. The fact that they attract and absorb matter into them by means of massive gravitational forces. What happens to the matter when it is absorbed is everyone’s guess.

It is believed that black holes are extremely dense because they absorb so much matter. Calculations have resulted that Sagittarius A might have the mass of 4 million stars the size of the Sun. This theory only holds true if a black hole holds on the matter. If it transports it somewhere else, as some think, then the mass calculations are redundant.

Time delay

All of this is fine and well but there is one more issue to the unusual brightness. The events that astronomers are witnessing are not happening in real-time. This is due to our current understanding of space-time. Because the black hole is 26.000 light-years away.

This means that it would take that long for light to travel to Earth. So, the increased brightness that was observed in May theoretically happened a long time ago.

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