This is what it looks like when a black hole belches.
Astronomers watched, over a six-month period, as a small area around a black hole in our large neighbor galaxy Andromeda brightened significantly at radio frequencies, then faded.
It is as if the hungry hole progressed from delicately taking a few light appetizers to chomping up a heavy main course, then lingering over its diminishing dessert.
Of course, we can’t see the black hole itself: The telltale brightening develops as the hole shreds atoms apart, spinning up the plasmatic remains.
While most is sucked down across the event horizon, some is accelerated out along a pair of polar paths forming counter-posed jets.
For more than a decade, scientists have been debating whether large black holes grazing slowly on companion stars, or smaller ones gorging gas rapidly, were the sources for such flare-ups.
Scientists at Curtin University’s node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research believe that the tempo of this event is the smoking gun, proving that relatively low mass black holes – only about 10 times the mass of our Sun – are, in fact, the causes of these outbursts.
For SPACE.com, I’m Dave Brody
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A bingeing black hole in the closest large galaxy, Andromeda, burps a bright X-ray blast. The cosmic belch proves that relatively small black holes, about 10x our Sun’s mass, can blast the ultra-luminous X-ray outbursts (ULX’s) that scientists see.
Credit: SPACE.com / International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University / NASA / ESO