Black Hole Mysteriously Lights Up, Scientists Are Baffled

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In October 2018, a tiny star was destroyed after getting too near to a black hole in a galaxy 665 million light-years from Earth. When this may seem thrilling, astronomers are used to seeing such intense events while monitoring the night sky, so they weren’t surprised. But the same black hole is lighting up the sky again, almost three years after the tragedy. Scientists think that it is more stranger since it hasn’t consumed anything new.

The team has determined that the black hole is, in fact, ejecting material at a velocity of 0.5c, but they have yet to determine why this outflow was delayed by many years. These findings, announced in the Astrophysical Journal on October 11, may provide light on the feeding habit of black holes, which Cendes compares to “burping” after a meal. Yvette Cendes, a research associate at the Center for Astrophysics, is the principal author of a new paper studying the phenomena.

While reviewing tidal disruption events (TDEs) over the last several years, the crew noticed the abnormal explosion. In TDEs, black holes eat the spaghetti-like remnants of intruding stars. In June of 2021, the black hole inexplicably came back to life, as shown by radio data from the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico. Cendes and his group hurried to investigate the incident further. The TDE was the most stunning object seen over radio.

It’s common knowledge that TDEs shine brightly whenever they happen. When a star gets too close to a black hole, it is stretched out. After a while, the stretched material spirals around the black hole, heating up and producing a flare that may be seen by astronomers from a great distance. The outflow emission, however, often arises shortly after a TDE instead of years later.

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