July 13, 2024

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Detection of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy

Detection of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy

Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have made groundbreaking discoveries about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*).

Leveraging a decade’s worth of X-ray data NASA’s NuSTAR telescopeThese results provide new insights into the mysterious environment surrounding this massive cosmic entity.

Discover hidden glows and echoes

Grace Sanger Johnson, a post-baccalaureate researcher at Michigan State University, has discovered nine before Undetected x-ray flares from Sagittarius A* Through careful analysis of ten years of data. These flares are high-energy explosions that illuminate the immediate vicinity of the black hole, an area normally shrouded in darkness due to the enormous force of gravity from which not even light can escape.

“We have a front row seat to observing this unique cosmic fireworks at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy,” said Sanger-Johnson advisor Xu Zhang. Flares provide a rare opportunity to study the surroundings of a black hole and better understand the extreme conditions that exist there.

While Sanger Johnson focused on TorchesJack Ottig, an undergraduate researcher in the Honors College at Michigan State University, studied X-ray echoes emanating from a nearby molecular cloud known as the Bridge. These echoes provide a glimpse into Archer A*’s activity over the past centuries.

By examining nearly 20 years of data from Nustar And the ESA’s X-ray Multiple Mirror (XMM). At Newton Observatory, Ottig found that the cloud’s brightness was likely a delayed reflection of previous X-ray bursts from the sky. Black hole.

“The brightness we see is most likely a delayed reflection of previous X-ray bursts from Sagittarius A*,” Ottig explained. This analysis helps reconstruct a timeline of the black hole’s past behavior, revealing that Sagittarius A* was significantly more active about 200 years ago.

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NASA's X-ray Polarimetry Explorer and Chandra X-ray Observatory.  Combining Ixpe and Chandra data helped researchers Dr

The importance of these results

These discoveries are crucial to understanding the dynamic environment at the heart of our galaxy. black holes They are very difficult to study directly because of their intense gravitational fields, which distort light and other signals.

However, by studying the effects of these fields on surrounding matter, scientists can infer important details about them Black hole activity. The work of Sanger-Johnson and Uttig exemplifies this approach, highlighting the immediate and historical behaviors of Sagittarius A*.

“Grace and Jack’s contributions are a source of great pride,” said Xu Zhang, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University. “Their work exemplifies MSU’s commitment to pioneering research and fostering the next generation of astronomers. This research is a prime example of how MSU scientists are unlocking the secrets of the universe, bringing us closer to understanding the nature of black holes and the dynamic environment at the heart of our galaxy.”

Understanding black hole flares

The newly discovered flares are dramatic bursts of high-energy light that occur when… Black hole Swallows material such as clouds of gas or stars. These flares provide valuable data about physical conditions near the event horizon, the limit beyond which nothing can escape the black hole’s gravity. when Black hole When consumed, the material is heated to extreme temperatures as it accelerates and spirals inward, emitting intense X-rays and other radiation in the process. This radiation is what scientists observe in the form of flares.

Torches They are usually short, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours, but they can release an enormous amount of energy during that period. The energy output of these flares can be equivalent to the energy of millions of suns. The Sanger-Johnson analysis, which included sifting through data from 2015 to 2024, revealed the characteristics of these flares, helping to build a comprehensive database for future research. All luminous It provides a snapshot of the dynamical processes occurring near a black hole, and provides clues about the behavior of accreting matter and the physics of the extreme environment.

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“We hope that by building this data bank around Sgr A* flares, we and other astronomers can analyze the properties of these X-ray flares and infer the physical conditions inside the extreme environment of the supermassive black hole,” Sanger-Johnson said. He said. By studying the timing, intensity and frequency of these flares, researchers can infer details about the black hole’s material consumption rate and the nature of the accretion disk surrounding it. This information is essential for developing models of black hole growth and activity.