Indigestion is no small matter for a black hole. The energy from a belching black hole radiates across the electromagnetic spectrum, emitting everything from radio waves to gammas, but the infrequent outbursts are hard to spot.
Such outbursts, known as tidal disruption flares, occur when a star wanders too close to a black hole and is torn apart by the cosmic phenomenon's immense gravitational force.
Astrophysicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced that they had gained new insight into the energy emitted by this stellar ingestion. It all began on Nov. 11, 2014, when a global network of robotic telescopes spotted a flare in a galaxy nearly 300 million light years from Earth.
The All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae, or ASASSN, sent out a notice. Astronomers quickly aimed an armada of telescopes at the flare, named ASASSN-14li, and collected data for 270 days.
They discovered a pattern: bursts of radiation, followed by dips and then another set of bursts. The identical fluctuations were found first in optical light collected by Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope and then in X-rays detected by Swift, NASA's orbiting space observatory.