There’s always been something acutely terrifying about the entire concept of a black hole. Stuff gets too close, and this giant space monster that no one fully understands quickly and effortlessly consumes it. For most people, though we’ll never come into contact with an actual black hole (plenty of metaphorical ones out there though), the end of any scientific sentence that begins with “The black hole consumed it” most often ends with “to never be seen again.” However, as resident badass Stephen Hawking theorized earlier this year, that might not be entirely accurate.
Two of NASA’s space telescopes randomly observed a black hole’s corona being “launched” away from the supermassive black hole known as Markarian 335. Immediately after this so-called launch, a massive burst of X-ray energy exited the black hole. To propose this question as scientifically as possible: What the hell does that mean? According to Dan Wilkins of Saint Mary’s University, it’s just as big a deal as you might think. “This is the first time we have been able to link the launching of the corona to a flare,” Wilkins said in a statement quoted by Viral Thread. “This will help us understand how supermassive black holes power some of the brightest objects in the universe.”
The principal investigator behind the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), one of the telescopes burdened with capturing this historical moment, calls that massive burst of energy “mysterious,” adding that it will be deeply explored in the months and years to come. “The nature of the energetic source of X-rays we call the corona is mysterious,” said Fiona Harrison. “But now with the ability to see dramatic changes like this we are getting clues about its size and structure.”
Panic if you must, but this supermassive black hole is over 300 million light years away. No need to sweat it.
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