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The black hole at the center of the Milky Way is unpredictable and chaotic

The black hole at the center of the Milky Way is unpredictable and chaotic

An international team of researchers led by graduate student Alexis Andres found that Black hole At the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, it glows not only irregularly from day to day but also over the long term. The team analyzed 15 years of data to come to this conclusion. Andres began research in 2019 when he was a summer student at the University of Amsterdam. In the years that followed, he continued his research, which will now be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Arc A* is a powerful source of radio, X-rays, and gamma rays (visible light is blocked by interfering gas and dust). Astronomers have known for decades that Sagittarius A* flashes every day, emitting bursts of radiation ten to a hundred times brighter than the normal signals observed from a black hole.

X-ray image of arch A*

This X-ray image of the galactic center merges all of Swift’s observations from 2006 to 2013. Sagittarius A* is in the center. Low-energy X-rays (300 to 1500 MeV) are shown in red. Green has medium energy (1500 to 3000 MeV). High-energy blue (3,000 to 10,000 eV). Credit: NASA/Swift/In. deigner

To learn more about these mysterious flares, a team of astronomers led by Andres searched for patterns in 15 years of data made available by Andres. NASANeil Geirels Swift Observatory, a satellite orbiting the Earth dedicated to detecting gamma ray bursts. The Swift Observatory has been observing gamma rays from the black hole since 2006. Analysis of the data showed high levels of activity from 2006 to 2008, with a sharp decline in activity over the next four years. After 2012, the frequency of flares increased again – the researchers had difficulty discerning the pattern.

In the next few years, the team of astronomers expects to collect enough data to be able to rule out whether the differences in flares from Sagittarius A* are caused by passing gas clouds or stars, or if something else could explain the observed irregular activity from the black hole. central in our galaxy.

“The long data set of the Swift Observatory did not happen by chance,” says Andrés co-author and former supervisor, Dr Nathalie Degenaar, also at the University of Amsterdam. Her request for these specific measurements from the Swift satellite was approved when she was a doctoral student. “Since then, I have applied for more monitoring time regularly. It’s a very special monitoring program that allows us to do a lot of research.”

Co-authored by Dr. Jacob van den Igenden, or Oxford universityCommenting on the team’s findings: “How the flares occur is still not entirely clear. It was previously believed that more flares come after gas clouds or stars pass through the black hole, but there is no evidence for this yet. We cannot yet confirm the hypothesis that the magnetic properties of the surrounding gas also play a role.”

Reference: “A Swift Study of long-term changes in X-ray burning properties of arc A” by A Andrés, J van den Eijnden, N Degenaar, P. A. Evans, K Chatterjee, M Reynolds, JM Miller, J Kennea, R Wijnands, S Markoff, D Altamirano, CO Heinke , A Bahramian and G Ponti, D Haggard, 9 Dec 2021, Available here. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stab3407

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