Mystery as NASA spots black hole shoot out ‘super X-ray emission’ 3,000 times greater than usual

On the left is an optical image of M83 from the Very Large Telescope in Chile, operated by the European Southern Observatory. On the right is a composite image showing X-ray data from Chandra in pink and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in blue and yellow.

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.

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