There was a big spark — 75 times brighter than usual — from the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way

There was a big spark — 75 times brighter than usual — from the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way
Sagittarius A* as seen by NASA's Chandra X Ray ObservatoryNASA

  • The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky just lit up brighter than ever before.
  • Researchers who made the discover initially thought that they might be looking at a star.
  • The Milky Way’s black hole is generally not very active and scientists are looking for more data to determine why it suddenly shone so bright.
Our solar system, the Milky Way, has a supermassive black hole at the heart of it and it just shined brighter than ever before.

Sagittarius A* is normally a pretty subdued black hole only flickering every once in a while to let us know it’s still there. This is because it doesn’t have an active center.

But this week, astronomers from saw the black hole glow 75 times brighter than it usually does in infrared before reverting back to its usual levels.

In fact, the light from the black hole was so bright that Tuan Do, who spotted the anomaly from the Keck Observatory, thought that it was a star at first.


The scientists at Cornell University are now on a mission to find out why.

Looking for answers

The amount of light a black hole emits isn’t the actual black hole glowing but the disk around its gravitational center than pulls any dust and gas in the surrounding area.

The friction among the particles in the disk is what produces the radiation that can be caught by infrared readings.

S0-2 is a star that passed close to the black hole last year, so it’s possible that it changed the way that gas flows into the black hole. “So more gas is falling in it, leading it to become more variable,” Do told Science Alert.

But, the scientists can only speculate on what really happened until they have more data to analyse. Luckily, the Keck Observatory is not the only eye tracking the Milky Way’s black hole

Other telescopes like Spitzer, Chandra, Swift and ALMA are also watching the night sky. Curating more data from those sources can help the scientists figure out what happened.

See also:
ISRO, NASA just spotted a black hole spinning so fast that it could be making space itself rotate

Our very own black hole in the Milky Way doesn’t quite eat up ‘everything’

Hubble has found a black hole disk that should be non-existent