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Strange explosive episode: Gigantic black hole appears to be flipping, NASA astronomers suggest

The NASA team opines that the eruption’s unusual characteristics are linked to changes in the black hole’s vicinity, suggesting a magnetic flip.

black hole flip nasa
Details of the theory have been published in a new study in the Astrophysical Journal. (Representative image/NASA)

A “strange explosive episode” is unfolding in the galaxy, NASA scientists have proposed. The scientists have theorised that a colossal black hole performed a 180° magnetic flip after observing a mysterious cosmic outburst in a galaxy located 236 million light years away.

Details of the theory have been published in a new study in the Astrophysical Journal. The NASA team opines that the eruption’s unusual characteristics are linked to changes in the black hole’s vicinity, suggesting a magnetic flip.

Magnetic field reversals are common occurrences in space. Every 11 years, the Sun switches north and south poles as part of a cycle tied to a string of massive solar eruptions observed recently.

The scientists analysed data from several telescopes, including NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite.

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In March 2018, astronomers noticed that the 1ES 1927+654 galaxy had brightened almost a hundred times in visible light. Looking over data from the archives, the scientists found that the eruption had actually begun near the end of 2017. In June 2018, observations by the Swift Observatory showed that the higher-energy X-ray emissions of the galaxy had completely disappeared.

According to an earlier theory, the eruption was triggered by a star destroyed by the black hole. Researchers of the new study, however, suggest that such an event would have faded out at a much faster rate than the one observed.

Scientists believe that the magnetic field of the black hole creates and sustains its corona. As a result, any magnetic change would impact the X-ray properties observed from Earth.

As the flip takes place, the magnetic field of the black hole momentarily becomes so weakened that it can no longer support the corona, causing complete disappearance of the X-ray emissions, the theory suggests. In October 2018, four months after they disappeared, the X-ray emissions returned, suggesting the corona had been restored following the flip.

Also Read | Is this what a black hole sounds like? NASA releases audio from Chandra X-ray observatory

NASA observed Black Hole Week this year between May 2 and 6. 

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