XMM-Newton Galactic Center Flare
Credit: Goldwurm et al., 2003, The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 584, p. 751

The Galactic Center Sends Up a Flare

Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short) is a strange source of emission in the center of the Milky Way. It's thought to be a black hole weighing in at a few million solar masses similar to those that reside at the cores of active galactic nuclei. Usually Sgr A* is much less active than those monsters, but recently the source became more active. The image above shows the Galactic Center as seen by the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory on two separate occasions. The image on the left shows the Galactic Center region around Sgr A* about 20 minutes before the flare, which is seen as the brightening in image on the right. This observation confirms an earlier detection of an X-ray flare from Sgr A* by the Chandra X-ray Observatory about a year earlier. It's not clear what caused the flare or how often these events occur, though presumably they are fairly common. Perhaps Sgr A* swallowed a star?

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified February 10, 2003