(TMU) — Scientists believe there is a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy named Sagittarius A*. This black hole is 26,000 light-years from the Earth and approximately 4 million times the mass of the Sun.
While Sgr A* has always been thought of as a quiet, relatively modest black hole, new observations show a recent burst of unprecedented activity suggesting it is on a sudden feeding frenzy.
The observations comes from a research team at the UCLA Galactic Center Group, which published their work in Astrophysical Journal Letters. Using the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, the team gathered 13,000 images of the accretion disk area of the black hole.
The accretion disk is where enormous amounts of gas, dust, and radiation accumulate and orbit outside the “point of no return”—or the event horizon. According to their observations, there has been a sudden and “unprecedented” increase in brightness from the Sgr A* accretion disk.
The paper’s co-author, Andrea Ghez, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, stated:
“We have never seen anything like this in the 24 years we have studied the supermassive black hole. It’s usually a pretty quiet, wimpy black hole on a diet. We don’t know what is driving this big feast.”
Scientists say the increase in brightness means the black hole is consuming more interstellar material, including stars, planets, dust, gas, and asteroids. One of the research team’s lead authors originally believed the glow was a star because Sagittarius A* had never been observed at that level of brightness.
The advanced techniques used to gather this information is perhaps one of the most noteworthy aspects of this story. The researchers employed speckle holography to extract and analyze distant information from Sgr A* during the last 24 years. Another technique, called adaptive optics, eliminates distortion from Earth’s atmosphere. Combined, researchers were able to conclude that this is the largest amount of radiation detected from our galaxy’s black hole in nearly a quarter of a century.
Mark Morris, another co-author and UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, speculated on the cause of the increase:
“The big question is whether the black hole is entering a new phase—for example if the spigot has been turned up and the rate of gas falling down the black hole ‘drain’ has increased for an extended period—or whether we have just seen the fireworks from a few unusual blobs of gas falling in.”
Scientists believe that by recording and analyzing such increases in black hole activity, they can get a better understanding of how black holes evolve and impact the development of galaxies.
In Major First, New System Lets Paralyzed Users Control Tablet Computer Wirelessly
In what could be a major breakthrough for people suffering paralysis and other permanent disabilities, the first wireless command to a computer has been demonstrated.
According to a new study published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, scientists at Brown University say that the new system called BrainGate can transmit brain signals at “single-neuron resolution and in full broadband fidelity.”
BrainGate clinical trial participants with paralysis used a small transmitter connected to a person’s brain motor cortex to manipulate the interface of a tablet computer.
Participants were able to achieve the same typing speeds and point-and-click accuracy on the BrainGate system as they could with wired systems.
“We’ve demonstrated that this wireless system is functionally equivalent to the wired systems that have been the gold standard,” said John Simeral, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown University.
“The signals are recorded and transmitted with appropriately similar fidelity, which means we can use the same decoding algorithms we used with wired equipment,” Simeral said.
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“The only difference is that people no longer need to be physically tethered to our equipment, which opens up new possibilities in terms of how the system can be used,” he added.
Neural interface technologies have attracted such high-profile figures as Elon Musk and social media titan Facebook in recent years.
“With this system, we’re able to look at brain activity, at home, over long periods in a way that was nearly impossible before,” said Brown University engineering professor and clinical trial leader Leigh Hochberg.
“This will help us to design decoding algorithms that provide for the seamless, intuitive, reliable restoration of communication and mobility for people with paralysis,” Hochberg added.
Scientists Discover X-Rays Coming From Uranus For Very First Time
Scientists are seeing X-rays being emitted from Uranus for the very first time, according to new research.
On Wednesday, the study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research that lays out how a comparison of two images of the planet taken by the Chandra Observatory in 2002 and 2017 show a clear detection of X-rays in the first image, while the second shows a possible flare of X-rays on the enigmatic and icy planet.
According to NASA, the reason for these X-rays is “mainly the sun.”
However, “there are tantalizing hints that at least one other source of X-rays is present,” the space agency noted.
“One possibility is that the rings of Uranus are producing X-rays themselves, which is the case for Saturn’s rings,” NASA said. “Another possibility is that at least some of the X-rays come from auroras on Uranus, a phenomenon that has previously been observed on this planet at other wavelengths.”
X-rays can be provide a crucial window into the processes and characteristics of our universe. In the case of Uranus, these characteristics can include “atmospheric, surface and planetary ring composition.”
And while X-ray lights given off by the sun have been previously observed by astronomers on Jupiter and Saturn, this hasn’t been the case for icy giants like Uranus and Neptune.
The agency hopes that by figuring out the origin of the X-rays observed at Uranus, researchers can better grasp how mysterious objects including black holes and neutron stars emit X-rays.
Uranus is roughly four times the diameter of Earth and is the seventh planet from the sun, and is known for its distinct pair of rings around its equator and its unique side rotation.
Breathtaking New Image of Black Hole Reveals Ultrapowerful Magnetic Fields
Two years after the first-ever image of a black hole was produced, an international team of scientists have released an updated view of the magnetic fields surrounding it, saying that the groundbreaking new development allows us to understand the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy’s ability to “launch energetic jets from its core.”
In a press release, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) said that over 300 researchers collaborated on the project and the findings were published Wednesday in two separate papers in The Astrophysical Journal.
In April 2019, scientists from EHT captured the world’s attention by releasing an image of the supermassive black hole lying at the center of M87, which is located 55 million light-years away from Earth.
The striking image showed a dark central region outlined by a ring-like structure, which scientists described at the time as “emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.” In the new image captured through polarized light, brightly colored streaks of light can be seen corresponding with its magnetic field.
“We are now seeing the next crucial piece of evidence to understand how magnetic fields behave around black holes, and how activity in this very compact region of space can drive powerful jets that extend far beyond the galaxy,” said Monika Mościbrodzka, coordinator of the EHT Polarimetry Working Group and a professor at Radboud Universiteit in the Netherlands.
The new observations, which are based on data collected by EHT researchers, should provide crucial insights on how a galaxy can project streams of energy thousands of light-years outward from its core.
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