Black Hole at Center of Milky Way Is Unpredictable and Chaotic – Mysterious Flares Erupt Every Day

Supermassive Black Hole Artist’s Concept Illustration

Artist’s concept illustration of a supermassive black hole emitting an x-ray jet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An international team of researchers, led by postgraduate student Alexis Andrés, has found that the black hole at the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, not only flares irregularly from day to day but also in the long term. The team analyzed 15 years’ worth of data to come to this conclusion. The research was initiated by Andres in 2019 when he was a summer student at the University of Amsterdam. In the years that followed, he continued his research, which is now to be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Sagittarius A* is a strong source of radio, X-rays, and gamma rays (visible light is blocked by intervening gas and dust). Astronomers have known for decades that Sagittarius A* flashes every day, emitting bursts of radiation that are ten to a hundred times brighter than normal signals observed from the black hole.

X-Ray Image of Sagittarius A*

This X-ray image of the galactic center merges all Swift observations from 2006 through 2013. Sagittarius A* is at the center. Low-energy (300 to 1,500 electron volts) X-rays appear red. Green are medium-energy (1,500 to 3,000 eV). Blue are high-energy (3,000 to 10,000 eV). Credit: NASA/Swift/N. Degenaar

To find out more about these mysterious flares, the team of astronomers, led by Andrés, searched for patterns in 15 years of data made available by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, an Earth-orbiting satellite dedicated to the detection of gamma-ray bursts. The Swift Observatory has been observing gamma rays from black hole since 2006. Analysis of the data showed high levels of activity from 2006 to 2008, with a sharp decline in activity for the next four years. After 2012, the frequency of flares increased again — the researchers had a difficult time distinguishing a pattern.

In the next few years, the team of astronomers expect to gather enough data to be able to rule out whether the variations in the flares from Sagittarius A* are due to passing gaseous clouds or stars, or whether something else can explain the irregular activity observed from our galaxy’s central black hole.

“The long dataset of the Swift observatory did not just happen by accident,” says co-author and previous supervisor to Andrés, Dr. Nathalie Degenaar, also at the University of Amsterdam. Her request for these specific measurements from the Swift satellite was granted while she was a PhD student. “Since then, I’ve been applying for more observing time regularly. It’s a very special observing program that allows us to conduct a lot of research.”

Co-author Dr. Jakob van den Eijnden, of the University of Oxford, comments on the team’s findings: “How the flares occur exactly remains unclear. It was previously thought that more flares follow after gaseous clouds or stars pass by the black hole, but there is no evidence for that yet. And we cannot yet confirm the hypothesis that the magnetic properties of the surrounding gas play a role either.”

Reference: “A Swift study of long-term changes in the X-ray flaring properties of Sagittarius A” by A Andrés, J van den Eijnden, N Degenaar, P A Evans, K Chatterjee, M Reynolds, J M Miller, J Kennea, R Wijnands, S Markoff, D Altamirano, C O Heinke, A Bahramian and G Ponti, D Haggard, 9 December 2021, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stab3407

3 Comments on "Black Hole at Center of Milky Way Is Unpredictable and Chaotic – Mysterious Flares Erupt Every Day"

  1. Howard Jeffrey Bender, Ph.D. | January 17, 2022 at 6:47 am | Reply

    Notice that the artist’s conception shows the flares coming from the pole of the supermassive Black Hole rather than the plane where the stars are. I speculate a similar flare occurs from the opposite pole. I suggest this makes the Milky Way a kind of weak active galaxy.

    Ever wonder why (and how) supermassive Black Holes expel jets of anything rather than sucking them in? One view of String Theory suggests that active galaxies, including radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies, and Quasars, may be explained with branes (dimensional membranes) at their centers rather than Black Holes. This view also explains those curious low surface brightness galaxies like Malin 1. Specifics can be found in my YouTube “Active Galaxies – A String Theory Way” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCb7RYwmnS8

  2. Babu G. Ranganathan | January 17, 2022 at 10:02 am | Reply

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)

    JUST BECAUSE SCIENCE CAN EXPLAIN how an airplane works doesn’t mean that no one designed or made the airplane. And just because science can explain how life or the universe works doesn’t mean there was no Designer and Maker behind them.

    Natural laws may explain how the order in the universe works and operates, but mere undirected natural laws cannot explain the origin of that order. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells from raw materials such as amino acids and other chemicals, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM.

    WHAT IS SCIENCE? Science simply is knowledge based on observation. No human observed the universe coming by chance or by design, by creation or by evolution. These are positions of faith. The issue is which faith the scientific evidence best supports.

    SCIENCE SHOWS THAT THE UNIVERSE CANNOT BE ETERNAL because it could not have sustained itself eternally due to the law of entropy (increasing and irreversible net energy decay, even in an open system). Even a hypothetical oscillating universe could not continue to oscillate eternally! Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity shows that space, matter, and time all are physical and all had a beginning. Space even produces particles because it’s actually something, not nothing. What about the Higgs boson (the so-called “God Particle”)? The Higgs boson, even if it existed, would not have created mass from nothing, but rather it would have converted energy into mass. Einstein showed that all matter is some form of energy. Even time had a beginning! Time is not eternal.

    The law of entropy doesn’t allow the universe to be eternal. If the universe were eternal, everything, including time and space (which modern science has shown are as physical as mass or matter), would have become totally entropied by now and the entire universe would have ended in a uniform heat death a long, long time ago. The fact that this hasn’t happened already is powerful evidence for a beginning to the universe.

    Popular atheistic scientist Stephen Hawking admits that the universe had a beginning and came from nothing but he believes that nothing became something by a natural process yet to be discovered. That’s not rational thinking at all, and it also would be making the effect greater than its cause to say that nothing created something. The beginning had to be of supernatural origin because science teaches us from the First Law of Thermodynamics that natural laws and processes do not have the ability to bring something into existence from nothing.

    The supernatural origin of the universe cannot be proved by science but science points to a supernatural intelligence and power for the origin and order of the universe. Where did God come from? Obviously, unlike the universe, God’s nature doesn’t require a beginning.

    The disorder in the universe can be explained because of chance and random processes, but the order can be explained only because of intelligence and design.

    Gravity may explain how the order found in the precise and orderly courses of thousands of billions of stars is maintained, but gravity cannot explain the origin of that order.

    Some evolutionary astronomers believe that trillions of stars crashed into each other leaving surviving stars to find precise orderly orbits in space. Not only is this irrational, but if there was such a mass collision of stars then there would be a super mass residue of gas clouds in space to support this hypothesis. The present level of residue of gas clouds in space doesn’t support the magnitude of star deaths required for such a hypothesis. And, as already stated, the origin of stars cannot be explained by the Big Bang because of the reasons mentioned above. It’s one thing to say that stars may decay and die into random gas clouds, but it is totally different to say that gas clouds form into stars.

    Even the father of Chaos theory admitted that the “mechanisms” existing in the non-living world allow for only very rudimentary levels of order to arise spontaneously (by chance), but not the kind or level of order we find in the structures of DNA, RNA, and proteins. Yes, individual amino acids have been shown to come into existence by chance but not protein molecules which require that the various amino acids be in a precise sequence just like the letters found in a sentence.

    Some things don’t need experiment or scientific proof. In law there is a dictum called prima facie evidence. It means “evidence that speaks for itself.”

    An example of a true prima facie would be if you discovered an elaborate sand castle on the beach. You don’t have to experiment to know that it came by design and not by the chance forces of wind and water.

    If you discovered a romantic letter or message written in the sand, you don’t have to experiment to know that it was by design and not because a stick randomly carried by wind put it there. You naturally assume that an intelligent and rational being was responsible.

    It’s interesting that Carl Sagan would have acknowledged sequential radio signals in space as evidence of intelligent life sending them, but he wouldn’t acknowledge the sequential structure of molecules in DNA (the genetic code) as evidence of an intelligent Cause. Read my popular Internet article, HOW DID MY DNA MAKE ME.

    I encourage all to read my popular Internet articles:

    NATURAL LIMITS TO EVOLUTION
    HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    Visit my latest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION (This site answers many arguments, both old and new, that have been used by evolutionists to support their theory)

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

    *I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I’ve been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who in The East” for my writings on religion and science.

  3. Little by Little, all Secret of Nature will be explained, but let the Scientists take their time. Look at the progress they have done since the complete medival obscurity.

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