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Massive Black Hole Caused a Pulse of High-Energy Light that Created a Spectacular Flare

First Posted: Jul 13, 2015 09:56 AM EDT

Scientists have uncovered a spectacular flare from a black hole. The pulse of high-energy light produced by the black hole may tell scientists a bit more about the galaxy where it resides.

"One day 3C 279 was just one of the many active galaxies we see, and the next day it was the brightest thing in the gamma-ray sky," said Sara Cutini, one of the researchers, in a news release.

3C 279 is actually a famous blazar, which is a galaxy whose high-energy activity is powered by a central supermassive black hole weighing up to a billion times the sun's mass and roughly the size of our planetary system. As matter falls toward the black hole, some particles race away at nearly the speed of light along a pair of jets pointed in opposite directions. What makes a blazar so bright is that one of these particle jets is aimed straight at us.

"This flare is the most dynamic outburst Fermi has seen in its seven years of operation, becoming 10 times brighter overnight," said Elizabeth Hays, one of the researchers.

The June 14 outburst from the galaxy rapidly brightened in less than a day and then peaked on June 16, producing a gamma-ray flare 10 times brighter than an event in 1991. The observations of this flare may tell scientists a bit more about this region of space and information about the size of the emitting region, which can't be larger than the distance light can travel during the flare.

The findings reveal a bit more about this galaxy and about black holes in general.

Want to learn more? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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