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Astronomers Measure Mysterious Object Leaving Black Hole

Just the phrase “object leaving black hole” should be cause for a “Wait, what?” since, until now, objects and even light went into black holes but nothing ever came out. First, NASA scientists detected something coming out of a black hole and now astronomers have been able to measure this massive object six billion light years away. How did they do it and is this a game changer?

NASA has been observing the Sagittarius A* area of the Milky Way for a few years because it has been emitting flares. While using the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) telescope and two others to observe a black hole known as Q2237+0305 or the “Einstein Cross” (winner of best nickname for a black hole), they suddenly and unbelievably saw something emitted from the center or corona of the black hole, followed by a massive pulse or flare of X-ray energy. This was the first time in history that scientists were able to link a “launching” of a corona to a flare. Since all of this was thought to be impossible, it required a closer look. That’s a tough task since Einstein’s Cross is six billion light years away

Depiction of an object and flares exiting from a black hole

Depiction of an object and flares exiting from a black hole

Spanish researchers working with the University of Granada (UGR) solved the problem by using the so-called gravitational microlensing effect. That’s where the gravity of objects between Earth and what is being observed bend and magnify the light so it can be seen. Four images of the Einstein Cross were obtained using the the OGLE (Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment) and GLITP (Gravitational Lensing International Time Project) experiments. What the researchers saw coming out of that black hole was shocking.

The Einstein Cross, showing four images around the actual object due to gravitational lensing

The Einstein Cross, showing four images around the actual object due to gravitational lensing

They found a disc-shaped mass of matter about the size of our Solar System orbiting at a high speed around the black hole. Researcher Jorge Jiménez Vicente, author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal, describes what a big deal this is:

The breakthrough of this work has been that we’ve been able to detect a structure in the inner edge of such a small disk at such a great distance, thanks to the gravitational microlensing effect. It would be the equivalent to detecting an Euro coin at a distance of more than 100000 kilometers.

So, from six billion light years away, they observed the corona of a black hole be ejected, followed by a flare, resulting in a disc the size of a solar system orbiting the black hole.

If that’s not game-changing, maybe we’re watching the wrong game.