There is a huge monster present at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It is well-known as Sagittarius A*. This monster is a super massive black hole and it is nearly 4.5 million times bigger than our Sun. It may sound quite big; nonetheless, as far as black holes go, it’s definitely not the biggest. For instance, the black hole in the center of another galaxy known as NGC 1277, which is a small galaxy as compared to Milky Way and it is some 250 million light-years from Earth, has a total mass that is equal to 17 billion suns (suggesting that this super massive black hole covers 14% of its galaxy’s total mass). However, Sagittarius A* is still pretty extraordinary, as the most recent news from NASA tells. In September of 2013, the Chandra X-Ray space observatory captured an X-ray flare from the center of our galaxy’s super massive black hole that was about 400 times perkier than the energy that we typically observe pouring out from this section. This “megaflare” was approximately three times brighter than the earlier brightest X-ray flare that was detected from Sgr A* (which was seen in early 2012).
|Image credit: NASA/Chandra|
According to NASA, this strange flare erupted from the center of the Milky Way raises many questions about the behavior of this huge black hole and its neighboring environment. However, researchers aren’t totally in the dark. There are two primary theories about what initiated this occurrence, which NASA is offering this week at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, scheduled in Seattle.
The first theory states that an asteroid took a stroll a bit too close to the massive black hole and was torn apart by dangerous gravitational perturbations. Because of Sagittarius A*’s extreme mass, the side of the asteroid that is near to the black hole would experience a gravitational force far stronger than the other far side. The tension initiated by the imbalanced nature of the gravitational force would eventually cause the asteroid to be pulled apart, torn in a grand burst. And just before the asteroid cross over the black hole’s event horizon, the remains from the asteroid would have been superheated and produced the X-rays that we see.
The second theory states that the lines of magnetic energy enclosed in the gas flowing into Sagittarius A* got twisted and produced the X-rays. Eventually, this theory holds weight accurately since, as NASA states, the pattern detected is alike to those found in such categories of flares detected from the Sun. However, in the end, NASA actually isn’t quite sure what initiated the outburst.
Researcher Gabriele Ponti of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, said “The bottom line is the jury is still out on what’s causing these giant flares from Sgr A*. Such rare and extreme events give us a unique chance to use a mere trickle of infalling matter to understand the physics of one of the most bizarre objects in our galaxy.”