Galactic Snacks

  • Released Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM
  • ID: 11149

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 Milky Way, shown here as an artist's concept, is home to Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center.

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.

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 is the only telescope capable of producing focused images of the highest-energy X-rays emitted by dying stars and hungry black holes.

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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Credits

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