Even black holes grab a meal now and then, feeding on everything from planets and asteroids to comets and gas. The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy has a relatively small appetite. Nevertheless, scientists using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) orbiting observatory caught our galaxy's central black hole in the act of devouring a snack. In July 2012, detection of a high-energy X-ray flare indicated that something—possibly an asteroid—was being torn apart and ingested at a temperature of about 100 million degrees Celsius. Watch the video to see the flare, and to find out how NuSTAR's crisp vision is improving our understanding of the high-energy phenomena and the diet of black holes.
The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy devours a snack.
Sagittarrius A*, the Milky Way's supermassive black hole, emits an x-ray flare indicating the ingestion of some kind of galactic matter.
Asteroids might be a popular snack for supermassive black holes, but the exact nature of their diet has yet to be revealed.
The Milky Way, shown here as an artist's concept, is home to Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center.
The bright white dot (left) is hot material close to the black hole; the time series (right) shows the flare seen over a period of two days.
NuSTAR's crisp vision is evident in this view of Cygnus X-1, a lower-mass black hole in the Milky Way about 6,000 light-years from Earth.
NuSTAR is the only telescope capable of producing focused images of the highest-energy X-rays emitted by dying stars and hungry black holes.
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Please give credit for this item to:
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Tour of Sagittarius A* animation courtesy of NASA/CXC/A. Hobart
Milky Way Galaxy illustration courtesy of NASA JPL
High-energy X-ray time series of the black hole courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
NuSTAR's first view of high-energy X-Ray Universe courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
Artist's concept of NuSTAR orbiting Earth courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
- Kathryn Hansen (Wyle Information Systems) [Lead]