Black hole at the centre of our galaxy is on a feeding frenzy and ‘getting hungrier’, scientists warn
THE huge black hole at the centre of our galaxy consumes everything in its path – and new research shows it’s getting hungrier.
Scientists say the supermassive black hole Sagitarrius A* (Sag A*) recently began feasting on matter around it at an unprecedented pace.
Artist’s impression of a supermassive black hole[/caption]
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at 13,000 readings of the Sag A* black hole.
They were investigating a recent finding that the black hole had begun glowing unexpectedly.
Black holes tend to glow when they begin to consume more matter, and Sag A* is on a “feeding frenzy”, according to a UCLA press release.
That means it’s sucking in more of a combination of stars, asteroids, and cosmic gases than usual.
UCLA researchers tracked the amount of radiation coming off the black hole, which sits 26,000 light-years from Earth.
They found that Sag A* is belching out untold amounts of radiation, meaning it’s consuming a lot of matter.
Worryingly, the gargantuan object is getting hungrier, and scientists don’t know when it will stop.
“The big question is whether the black hole is entering a new phase — for example if the spigot has been turned up and the rate of gas falling down the black hole ‘drain’ has increased for an extended period,” UCLA astronomer Mark Morris said.
What is a black hole? The key facts
Here's what you need to know…
What is a black hole?
- A black hole is a region of space where absolutely nothing can escape
- That’s because they have extremely strong gravitational effects, which means once something goes into a black hole, it can’t come back out
- They get their name because even light can’t escape once it’s been sucked in – which is why a black hole is completely dark
What is an event horizon?
- There has to be a point at which you’re so close to a black hole you can’t escape
- Otherwise literally everything in the universe would have been sucked into one
- The point at which you can no longer escape from a black hole’s gravitational pull is called the event horizon
- The event horizon varies between different black holes, depending on their mass and size
What is a singularity?
- The gravitational singularity is the very centre of a black hole
- It’s a one-dimensional point that contains an incredibly large mass in an infinitely small space
- At the singularity, space-time curves infinitely and the gravitational pull is infinitely strong
- Conventional laws of physics stop applying at this point
How are black holes created?
- Most black holes are made when a supergiant star dies
- This happens when stars run out of fuel – like hydrogen – to burn, causing the star to collapse
- When this happens, gravity pulls the centre of the star inwards quickly, and collapses into a tiny ball
- It expands and contracts until one final collapse, causing part of the star to collapse inward thanks to gravity, and the rest of the star to explode outwards
- The remaining central ball is extremely dense, and if it’s especially dense, you get a black hole
“Otherwise, we may have just seen the fireworks from a few unusual blobs of gas falling in.”
A hungry black hole may sound terrifying, but there’s no need to panic just yet.
Sag A* currently poses no threat to Earth, as it’s too far away to cause any major damage.
One researcher said the radiation would have to be 10 billion times as bright as what the astronomers detected to affect life on Earth.
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Why do you think the black hole is getting hungrier? Let us know in the comments!
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