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Bizarre behavior shown by two giant black holes
Scientists puzzled by one's brightening and the other's movement
By Denise Chow
updated 8:05 p.m. ET, Fri., May 28, 2010
MIAMI - Some strange behavior from two huge black holes at the center of two different galaxies has been noticed by astronomers.
One supermassive black hole, at the heart of a galaxy neighboring the Milky Way, has been mysteriously brightening in recent years, and scientists aren't sure why. Another of these matter-gobbling behemoths isn't where astronomers thought it was located.
Two new studies on these black holes, the results of which were presented here today at the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, have turned up some surprising results and could help astronomers understand more about the evolution of galaxies and how supermassive black holes work.
In the first study, the erratic, unpredictable behavior of the supermassive black hole within the Andromeda galaxy puzzled researchers studying it. They found that the black hole became 100 times brighter following an outburst on Jan. 6, 2006.
After the outburst, however, the black hole entered another relatively dim state, but was still about ten times brighter on average than prior to 2006. The outburst suggests that a relatively high rate of matter had been falling onto the black hole, followed by a smaller, but still significant rate.