Astronomers watch a supermassive black hole turn on for the first time

Somewhere in the not-too-distant universe, a galaxy named SDSS1335+0728 is waking up.

Over the past four years, astronomers have been able to watch the supermassive black hole in SDSS1335+0728’s center go from dim and quiet to bright and active, the first time such a transition has been observed in real time, researchers report June 18 in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The finding will provide insights into the processes powering active galactic nuclei, or AGN, which occur when supermassive black holes consume enormous amounts of material, becoming bright enough to be seen clear across the cosmos (SN: 6/18/20).

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