Black hole observed by astronomers

  • 09/07/2015

Astronomers who trained their telescopes on a strange stellar blip were rewarded with a front-row seat to the spectacle of a black hole waking up to devour breakfast.

The black hole at the centre of a galaxy 42 million light years away, in the constellation of Pisces, may have been dormant for millions of years before it was seen three years ago.

Scientists surveying the skies were lucky in 2012 to catch a flash of its awakening in a galaxy called NGC 660.

The team presented its findings this week at a meeting of the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales.

Black holes are very dense regions in spacetime with a gravitational force so strong that even light cannot escape.

They normally lurk dormant and undetected at the centre of galaxies, but can occasionally be tracked by their spectacular feeding frenzies - guzzling gas and dust, sometimes entire stars, and spitting out jets of debris.

In 2012, astronomers using a single radio telescope in Puerto Rico to monitor galaxies, noticed NGC 660 become hundreds of times brighter in just a few months.