A ‘remarkable outburst’ from a black hole has astronomers puzzled after they saw X-ray output increase by about 3,000 times.
The black hole is located in M83, a spiral galaxy about 15 million light years from Earth, and the huge output suggests there is a population of older, volatile black holes that we have yet to learn about.
The flash in the skies was noted by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, a space-based telescope which was launched into orbit in 1999.
Using Chandra, astronomers found the new ultraluminous X-ray source within the galaxy.
Ultralumous (ULX) sources emit more ‘luminous’ energy than is thought to possible by a ‘traditional’ black hole.
They are rare items, with only a couple spotted in each of our neighbouring galaxies – indeed, one has not been discovered in our own Milky Way galaxy.
No sign of the ULX was found in X-ray images taken by the Einstein Observatory in 1980, ROSAT in 1994, the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton in 2003 and 2008, or NASA’s Swift observatory in 2005.