Scientists observe strange lights in the heart of the Milky Way

Astronomers spot periodic lights coming from near the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Scientists observe strange lights in the heart of the Milky Way

Hot spots around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way may produce periodic lights.

Credit: Keio University
  • Astronomers in Japan observe periodic lights coming from the region near the black hole at the center of our galaxy.
  • The twinkling may be produced by hot spots in the accretion disk around the black hole.
  • The mysterious region studied features extreme gravity.

Astronomers peered into the heart of our galaxy to reveal surprising lights. Utilizing the ALMA telescope in Chile, a team of Japanese scientists found periodic flickering coming from near the center of the Milky Way, which contains the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). The twinkling is likely due to the rotating radio spots around the black hole, a mysterious region of extreme gravity.

The research team from ALMA, which stands for "Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array," was led Yuhei Iwata, a graduate student at Keio University, Japan. He explained that the gigantic Sgr A*, with the mass of 4 million suns, has been known to flare up in millimeter wavelengths, infrared light, and X-rays, but this time, the scientists got radio-wave intensity data for a period of 10 days (including 70 minutes per day), and found two specific trends – namely "quasi-periodic variations with a typical time scale of 30 minutes and hour-long slow variations."

Does the black hole itself produce these lights? As far as we know, the black hole doesn't actually make emissions of any sort. The culprits behind the lights are likely hot spots formed in the superhot gas disk surrounding the black hole. It rotates around it, creating an accretion disk.

The astronomers found that the 30-minute variation period of the flickering corresponded to the orbital period of the inner edge of the accretion disk. This discovery provides "compelling insight for the gas motion" around the black hole, stated professor Tomoharu Oka of Keio University, who was also involved in the study.

Michio Kaku: A Black Hole in Our Own Backyard

The research group's other members included Masato Tsuboi of the Japan Space Exploration Agency/The University of Tokyo, Makoto Miyoshi from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/SOKENDAI, and Shunya Takekawa of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Check out their new paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

3,000-pound Triceratops skull unearthed in South Dakota

"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.

Excavation of a triceratops skull in South Dakota.

Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
Surprising Science
  • The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
  • It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
  • Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Keep reading Show less

Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

Credit: Columbia Pictures
Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Pig painting at Leang Tedongnge in Indonesia, made at 45,500 years ago.

    Credit: Maxime Aubert
    Surprising Science
    • Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
    • The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
    • The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
    Keep reading Show less
    Mind & Brain

    What can Avicenna teach us about the mind-body problem?

    The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast