NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered an extraordinary outburst by a black hole in the spiral galaxy M83, located about 15 million light years from Earth.
Photographer: ESO / VLT / NASA
NASA has reported a possible new discovery of volatile black holes.
The finding is the result of an extraordinary outburst from a black hole from which astronomers saw X-ray output increase by about 3,000 times. That huge outburst suggests there is a population of older black holes that scientists don't yet know about, reported The Daily Mail .
The event occurred in the spiral galaxy M83, located about 15 million light years from Earth.
"Optical images reveal a bright blue source at the position of the ULX (ultraluminous X-ray source) during the X-ray outburst. Before the outburst the blue source is not seen," NASA said in a news release.
"These results imply that the companion to the black hole in M83 is a red giant star, more than about 500 million years old, with a mass less than about four times the Sun's. According to theoretical models for the evolution of stars, the black hole should be almost as old as its companion."
NASA said astronomers believe the bright, blue optical emission they saw must have been caused by a disk surrounding the black hole. Astronomers think it brightened dramatically as it gained more material from the companion star.
The flash was detected by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The space-based telescope was launched into orbit in 1999.
"The flaring up of this ULX took us by surprise and was a sure sign we had discovered something new about the way black holes grow," said Roberto Soria of Curtin University in Australia, who led the new study.
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