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A Black Hole’s Bursting Corona

NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech
Astronomers have been keeping their eyes on a supermassive black hole named Markarian 335 for about a decade. This black hole, at the center of a galaxy in the Pegasus constellation, is more mysterious than most: Previously one of the brightest X-ray sources in the sky, it inexplicably faded by a factor of 30 in 2007. While NASA’s Swift observatory was checking in on it in September 2014, it caught Mrk 335 giving off a powerful eruption of X-ray light (artist’s concept, right). With additional observations from NASA’s NuSTAR observatory, which was quickly re-targeted to catch the end of the eruption, astronomers have determined the flare was the ejection, and then collapse, of the black hole’s corona, which has given new insight into the behavior of these strange objects.

Heather Goss is the Departments Editor at Air & Space.

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