A team of researchers has observed a rare event within the Milky Way galaxy with the help of advanced high-frame-rate technique, which allowed them to film a black hole flickering.
Known as MAXI J1820+070, the black hole was discovered in 2018, and it up to 7 times heavier than the sun, residing a distance of 10,000 light-years away from Earth. From a size perspective it is quite small, the smallest one which has been observed until now reaches the mass of 5 suns. However, it is unlike other black holes because it constantly flickers, releasing a large amount of X-ray and visible light radiation as it absorbs material from a nearby star.
In most cases, black holes are quite difficult to spot. Even Sagittarius A*, the supermassive galaxy located in the heart of the Milky Way, is not very active, but researchers use the orbit of the nearby objects to track its activity.
At this point, it is important to mention the fact that Sagittarius A* is 4 million times heavier than the sun and generates a massive gravitational pull. A small black force lacks the force which is needed to have orbiters. Many stars (among which we can count dead stars and black holes) have pair and form binary star systems. Black holes will absorb material from their binary partner, and the process can be observed with the help of modern tools.
Researchers believe that MAXI J1820+070 is hard at work, and the material taken from the nearby star forms an accretion disk around the black hole. Powerful forces interact with the disk, generating a large amount of pressure and intense heat.
This process leads to the appearance of flickering electromagnetic radiation, which was recorded by using a tool known as the HiPERCAM, which is mounted on the Gran Telescopio Canaris and captures optical light. X-ray images were recorded with the NICER observatory aboard the ISS.
A study that documents the images and associated information has been published in a scientific journal.