Light Echoes from Our Supermassive Black Hole

Article written: 11 Jan , 2007
Updated: 31 Jul , 2007
by

SgrA. Image credit: ChandraA new set of images from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory show the reflected X-ray emission from a small meal consumed by the supermassive black hole that lurks at the heart of the Milky Way.

Astronomers believe that an object with the mass of the planet Mercury was devoured by the black hole about 50 years ago. The event released a torrent X-rays that flooded out in all directions. Some of those X-rays collided with nearby gas clouds, and were reflected in our direction.

Chandra imaged the same region for three years in a row, and saw that the shape and brightness of the clouds changed matching theoretical predictions made by astronomers. Since X-ray emissions are stopped by the Earth’s atmosphere, and we didn’t have an X-ray observatory in space 50 years ago, nobody was able to see the original event. All we get to see is the echo.

Original Source: Chandra News Release


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