Strange 'blob' circling Milky Way's central black hole is shooting powerful radiation at Earth every 76 minutes

The Event Horizon Telescope, a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration, captured this image of the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy M87 and its shadow.
The Event Horizon Telescope, a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration, captured this image of the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy M87 and its shadow. (Image credit: EHT Collaboration)

Something near the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way has been firing regular blasts of high-energy gamma-rays toward Earth, and scientists may finally know what it is.

In new non-peer-reviewed research posted to the preprint server arXiv, a duo of astrophysicists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico conclude that the bursts of radiation are emanating from a blob of gas spinning around the black hole at almost one-third the speed of light. The team's findings may solve a mystery regarding the Milky Way's central black hole — formally named Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) and  located around 26,700 light-years from Earth — that has perplexed astronomers for two years .

Related: Supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is approaching the cosmic speed limit, dragging space-time along with it

The gamma-ray radiation pulses from around Sgr A* were first detected belting Earth in 2021. The team behind the observation knew that the radiation couldn't be coming from within the supermassive black hole  itself, however.

That's because all black holes are bound by a region called an event horizon, which marks the point beyond which nothing,   not even light,  has the velocity needed to escape the black hole's immense gravity. This means black holes don't emit radiation themselves, so the gamma-rays must be coming from the environment of Sgr A*.

Other supermassive black holes are known to emit powerful radiation from their immediate surroundings when their gravitational influence generates turbulent conditions in surrounding gas and dust, forming a structure called an accretion disk. As black holes feed on this matter, the accretion disk emits light that spans the electromagnetic spectrum,  from low-energy radio waves to high-energy gamma-rays.

A view of the mysterious X-ray emissions spotted near the Milky Way's central black hole. These may be related to new gamma-ray detections from the same region. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This can't account for the gamma-rays from Sgr A*, however, as the Milky Way's black hole is surrounded by very little matter and is feeding so slowly that it would be equivalent to a human living on a diet of one grain of rice every million years, according to University of Arizona astronomer Chris Impey, who was not involved in the research.

Using data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope collected between June and December 2022, the researchers aimed to discover the origin of these gamma-rays.

The duo searched the publicly available Fermi data for patterns of periodicity in the gamma-ray emissions. They found that the pulses emerge from close to Sgr A* roughly once every 76.32 minutes. This period of emission is half the time between pulses of X-ray radiation also seen coming from the vicinity of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole, suggesting the two emissions are in harmony and are likely related.

"The coincidence of the multiwavelength periodicity in X-ray and gamma-ray points towards a single physical mechanism that produces it," the team wrote in the paper.

This revelation of what the researchers call a "unique oscillatory physical mechanism" led them to conclude that both the gamma-rays and the X-rays are being emitted by a "blob" of gas that is swirling around Sgr A* at around 30% the speed of light  —  or around 200 million mph (320 million km/h). They think this speeding lump of matter is emitting light across several wavelengths of radiation as it swirls around Sgr A*, flaring periodically as its orbit proceeds.

The discovery could give scientists a better understanding of the environments around supermassive black holes, particularly less-ravenous examples, such as the one at the heart of the Milky Way.

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Robert Lea
Contributing Writer

Robert Lea is a science journalist in the U.K. whose articles have been published in Physics World, New Scientist, Astronomy Magazine, All About Space, Newsweek and ZME Science. He also writes about science communication for Elsevier and the European Journal of Physics. Rob holds a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from the U.K.’s Open University. Follow him on Twitter @sciencef1rst.

  • Adoni Yannop
    Admin said:
    Regular high-energy pulses of gamma-ray radiation emerging from around the Milky Way's central black hole may be coming from a blob of matter whipping around at 30% the speed of light.

    Strange 'blob' circling Milky Way's central black hole is shooting powerful radiation at Earth every 76 minutes : Read more
    I suspect/guess that this phenomena was given years ago to be the result of electron -positron annihilation. Am I correct not having red the article??

    After Reading): “Strange 'blob' circling Milky Way's central black hole is shooting powerful radiation at Earth every 76 minutes : Read more”

    I, now, correct my suspicion to my postulate that all moons, planets, stars, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes and SMBHs accreting, galaxies, superclusters etc): all pulsate!!

    We are given that the Earth pulsates every 26 seconds, our Sun pulsates every 5 minutes and 34 seconds and that “accreting” Sag a pulsates every 76 minutes!!

    Please, someone read the article and tell me whether or not the observed powerful radiation is the result of the conversion of electrons to positrons and their resulting annihilation as I first suspected!!

    Side Note): I postulate that electrons and protons can be converted to positrons and antiprotons by simply flipping their magnetic poles by and through alternating extremely high and low GP1 Aether Particle Pressure particularly evident in the pulsations of progenitor stars supernovas because only matter-antimatter interactions can power supernova explosions!!

    Talk more, soon!! Have a great day!!
    Reply
  • Atlan0001
    shooting powerful radiation?! You certain sure of "is"?!
    I would only give you a probable on "is" ("is observed to be...." would be better). "Is" bespeaks the unobservable universe -- spontaneous concurrent REALTIME universes -- being observed infinitely faster than the speed of light. A quantum entanglement-like entanglement of spaces ("Spooky action-at-a-distance").
    Reply
  • Adoni Yannop
    Atlan0001 said:
    shooting powerful radiation?! You certain sure of "is"?!
    I would only give you a probable on "is" ("is observed to be...." would be better). "Is" bespeaks the unobservable universe -- spontaneous concurrent REALTIME universes -- being observed infinitely faster than the speed of light. A quantum entanglement-like entanglement of spaces ("Spooky action-at-a-distance").
    I noticed that you, Atlan0001, and Billslugg post a lot in the thread): “From a drop of water… “ which you started on April 21, 2023 with your post): "From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other...." -- Arthur Canon Doyle, 'Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet'.”

    Anyway, the reason I bring your “From a drop of water… “ thread up is that Billslugg was open to lay non-PHd solutions for which no PHd authored solution had been offered and that you might have agreed to this but I wasn’t yet ready to invade you guy’s happy home “From a drop of water… “ thread with my novel original theories that correct the misassumptions of modern physicists that condemn themselves and you for all eternity to never being able to explain the exact physical mechanical processes that allow light waves to propagate in a pressurized GP1 Aether Particle Medium; that allow physicists to explain how gravity is generated, what dark matter is and the exact physical mechanical processes that generate dark matter gravity); and the physical mechanical processes that mint embryonic neutrons inside stars that when warmed up to absolute zero decay to hydrogen perpetuating our finite in volume ageless universe forever and forever!!

    FYI): Supporting my statement partially that I was given that positrons from Sag a are being sent directly toward us):

    NASA Gives/Says): “The Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) is a soft gamma-ray survey telescope (0.2-5 MeV) designed to probe the origins of Galactic positrons, uncover the sites of nucleosynthesis in the Galaxy, perform pioneering studies of gamma-ray polarization, and find counterparts to multi-messenger sources. COSI’s compact Compton telescope combines improvement in sensitivity, spectral resolution, angular resolution, and sky coverage to facility groundbreaking science. Credit: NASA”

    Talk more, soon. Have a great day!!
    Reply