A black hole that has awakened from its entire 26 years of slumber emitted bright red flashes with the power of 1,000 suns, astronomers observed.

V404 Cygni is a binary system composed of a black hole and a companion star located some 8,000 light-years away from Earth. Such black hole is recognized to be the first one ever detected in our galaxy.

A Surprising Show Of Red Lights

In June 2015, astronomers were able to observe V404 Cygni in a dramatic display of bright lights for about two weeks. The black hole is said to have swallowed the material that it had peeled off an orbiting companion star.

Each red light shone in such great illuminating fashion, but the violent bursts were very short, with some lasting for only less than 1/40th of a second or 10 times more rapid than the blink of an eye.

Astronomers were astounded as they have never seen anything quite like this before. Because of what seems like a surprising show of red lights, they became so curious and anxious of finding out what those red lights were.

After months of investigation, a group of experts have finally discovered what might have caused the outburst.

What Are Those Red Flashes?

An international team of astronomers embarked on a study to find out what those mysterious red flashes were. Their analyses show that the red flashes may be associated with rapidly moving jets emitting material back into space.

Study lead author Poshak Gandhi suspects that powerful magnetic fields may have a huge role in the event. He explains that the super fast speed of the flashes signifies that it came from a very compact region. With this, researchers detected that the red light originated from the base of the black hole's jet. Although the exact origin of the jet remains unclear, the team thinks there is a strong magnetic field involved.

"These data reveal a complex mix of components over five decades in timescale during the outburst.," the authors write.

An Overwhelmed Black Hole

The authors note that the red flashes were at their most intense when the black hole was being fed with materials from its companion star. This led the investigators to think that the black hole was being force-fed.

Researchers speculate that the surge of gas subsequently formed lumps inside the disk, which temporarily impeded inward flow. One of the lumps would eventually become so overwhelmed, coupled by tremendous amounts of gas that had gone back to the black hole. As V404 Cygni struggled to take in everything, it violently emitted the material back out in the form of a jet.

The team will continue their work and hope to find more definitive information regarding the causes of the red flashes.

The study was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on Monday, March 14.

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