It was dormant for more than 20 years, exhibiting very little fluctuations in light. Then one day, it woke up, baffling astronomers around the world.
A supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way called Sagittarius A* has just started flashing 75 times brighter than it has ever been seen before, following a two-decade 'quiet' period, RT reports.
UCLA Astronomer Tuan Do and his team observed the transformation of the black hole using the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii over four nights.
The team observed a bizarre flash on May 13, and captured it in a two-hour time-lapse that condensed the phenomenon down to just a few seconds.
Check it out below:
Here's a timelapse of images over 2.5 hr from May from @keckobservatory of the supermassive black hole Sgr A*. The black hole is always variable, but this was the brightest we've seen in the infrared so far. It was probably even brighter before we started observing that night! pic.twitter.com/MwXioZ7twV— Tuan Do (@quantumpenguin) August 11, 2019
As Do explained, the footage above begins with Sagittarius at its brightest, or at least the brightest point that the team saw and recorded.
Astronomers from all over the world are now scrambling to collect data and figure out exactly what caused the phenomenon.
So far, there are several theories.
"Maybe more gas is falling into the black hole and that leads to higher amounts of accretion, which leads to it being brighter," Do told a science publication.
There’s also the possibility that the black hole consumed a nearby gas cloud that had been documented nearby in 2014.
But at least five powerful research telescopes will continue to observe the black hole for as long as it's visible.