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An Unknown Black Hole That Points Directly At The Earth Discovered

A bright X-ray, optical, and radio signal appearing halfway across the universe has been determined by astronomers.

Known as AT 2022cmc, the signal was discovered earlier this year by the Zwicky Transient Facility. Observations published in Nature Astronomy suggest that the jet is likely to be generated by a supermassive black hole ejecting matter at close to light speed.

This is the first time ever that scientists have observed a black hole emitting light, which prompted excitement as the light originated from a region of space that had never previously seen light.

Researchers at Palomar Observatory in California were monitoring data from the Zwicky Transient Facility when they observed a flash of extraordinary magnitude in an area of the sky that had never previously been observed. The flash appeared to emit more light than 1,000 trillion suns, according to a rough calculation.

These findings have been documented in two scientific journals - one in Nature in an article entitled 'A very luminous jet from the disruption of a star by a massive black hole', and another in Nature Astronomy entitled 'The Birth of a Relativistic Jet Following the Disruption of a Star by a Cosmological Black Hole'.

MIT scientists, along with astronomers at NASA and Caltech, published the discovery in an astronomy newsletter, where it attracted the attention of astronomers throughout the world.

In the following days, multiple telescopes focused in on the signal to gather more data across multiple wavelengths, including X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, and radio wavelengths to determine what was causing such high levels of light.

There is a report that this light emits more light than one trillion suns. Quite impressive, tbh.

As a result of a star being too close to a black hole, it was ripped apart and the blast was seen throughout the universe. It is called a tidal disruption event (TDE). Approximately one per cent of the time, plasma and radiation is sent out of both sides of the black hole.

An Unknown Black Hole That Points Directly At The Earth Discovered

This TDE was unusual in that it was so bright - primarily due to its direction towards the Earth. As a result, it was more intense than normal.

Researchers turned their advanced telescopes - among the world's most advanced - towards the source during this TDE in February. A supermassive black hole that 'ate' a star three years ago essentially 'burped up' a star last month, leaving astronomers scratching their heads.

"This caught us completely by surprise - no one has ever seen anything like this before," said Yvette Cendes, the lead author of a new study analysing the phenomenon [1].

Story first published: Friday, December 2, 2022, 11:02 [IST]
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