Scientists provided new insights into a cosmic accident that has been streaming X-rays toward Earth since March. Two studies appearing in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Nature revealed the information about the accident.
NASA’s Swift satellite first alerted astronomers to intense and unusual high-energy flares from the new source in the constellation Draco.
“Incredibly, this source is still producing X-rays and may remain bright enough for Swift to observe into next year,” said David Burrows, professor of astronomy at Penn State University and lead scientist for the mission’s X-Ray Telescope instrument. “It behaves unlike anything we’ve seen before.”
Astronomers soon realized the source, known as Swift J1644+57, was the result of a truly extraordinary event — the awakening of a distant galaxy’s dormant black hole as it shredded and consumed a star. The galaxy is so far away, it took the light from the event approximately 3.9 billion years to reach Earth.