How’s that for a beacon? NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has tracked down evidence of at least a couple of past luminous outbursts near the Milky Way’s huge black hole. These flare-ups took place sometime in the past few hundred years, which is very recently in astronomical terms.
“The echoes from Sagittarius A were likely produced when large clumps of material, possibly from a disrupted star or planet, fell into the black hole,” the Chandra website stated.
“Some of the X-rays produced by these episodes then bounced off gas clouds about 30 to 100 light years away from the black hole, similar to how the sound from a person’s voice can bounce off canyon walls. Just as echoes of sound reverberate long after the original noise was created, so too do light echoes in space replay the original event.”
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The astronomers saw evidence of “rapid variations” in how X-rays are emitted from gas clouds circling the hole, revealing clues that the area likely got a million times brighter at times.
Check out more information on Chandra’s website.