Hubble Monitors Spectacular Black Hole Flare

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this spectacular space fireworks display when a blob of matter within a 5,000-light-year-long plasma beam emanating from a giant black hole flared up.

The glowing clump of gas, first discovered in 1999 and named HST-1, is located in one of the most massive black holes ever discovered, in the giant elliptical galaxy M87 54 million light years away from Earth. It has been flickering recently, growing brighter and then fading over several days at a time.

Astronomers aren’t sure what is causing the flickering, though it could be from the jet colliding with a dust cloud or with gas. It could also be a process akin to what causes solar flares when magnetic field lines come together. Studying the flare could help astronomers understand similar phenomena in more distant parts of the universe.

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