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Surprising Science

Astronomers Catch First Glimpse Of Our Galaxy’s Giant Black Hole

NASA's new X-ray telescope chanced upon a rare flare-up taking place in the center of the galaxy, home of the Sagittarius A black hole.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn


What’s the Latest Development?

NASA’s new X-ray telescope array, NuSTAR, observed activity at the Milky Way’s center which further confirmed the existence of the giant black hole labeled Sagittarius A (Sgr A). The observation took place in July and included the Chandra low-energy X-ray telescope and the infrared telescope at Keck Observatory in Hawaii. NuSTAR is the only telescope capable of detecting the high-energy X-rays emitted by matter that’s being “eaten” by black holes like Sgr A.

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What’s the Big Idea?

Unlike other black holes observed at other galaxies, which quickly consume stars and other material surrounding them, Sgr A is a “gentle giant” which, based on current data, either doesn’t consume or consumes only a little material at a time. Principal investigator Fiona Harrison said the team “got lucky” to have caught  the quiet black hole at a meal, an event which team member Chuck Hailey credits to NuSTAR’s state-of-the-art sensitivity. Combined with the images from it and the other two telescopes, they hope to gain more clues as to how black holes eat and get bigger.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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