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article imageAstronomers monitor extraordinary black hole 'eruption'

By Caroline Leopold     Jul 2, 2015 in Science
Astronomers worldwide are monitoring a newly awakened black hole after it released a blast of high-energy light. A black hole eruption is an extraordinary space phenomenon
Astronomers around globe are monitoring an extremely rare event — the awakening of a black hole from dormancy. The eruption was discovered through detecting a burst of high-energy light.
NASA's Swift satellite was the first to make the discovery on June 15. Scientists determined the source of the unusual energy came from V404 Cygni, a system that is about 8,000 light-years away from Earth.
The black hole, 12 times more massive than the sun, had been dormant for 26 years until now.
Around the world, scientists have focused their instruments to study the black hole, before it becomes quiet again.
"Relative to the lifetime of space observatories, these black hole eruptions are quite rare," said the Swift scientist Neil Gehrels to according to
"So when we see one of them flare up, we try to throw everything we have at it, monitoring across the spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays."
Despite, the relative fame of black holes in popular science, astronomers have only located a handful of possible black holes in space. V404 Cygni is one of the most convincing of these suspected black holes.
The blast was caused when the black hole drained gas from a nearby star. The gas then became super-heated, releasing a stream of X-rays.
The gas, which had been forming a disk around the black hole, reached critical mass and rushed towards the black hole's center and released a flood of light.
The V404 Cyngi star system has continued to flare up a number of times since the eruption first began.
"It repeatedly becomes the brightest object in the X-ray sky—up to 50 times brighter than the Crab Nebula," European Space Agency scientist Erik Kuulkers said.
"It is definitely a 'once in a professional lifetime' opportunity."
More about NASA, Black hole, V404 Cygni