With everything else that's been going on lately here on this planet, you may not have noticed that there's a lot of news lately about black holes, those Einstein monsters that can absorb light and everything else, bad. Black holes eating stars, or whole bands of them. Black holes burning energy from galaxy centers.
Sounds like cosmology to Stephen King. In the summer, I was on a lake in Peru, where the water was boiling with power piranha, their small black blades furiously breaking the surface. I was safe in the boat. Then.
It turns out to be a black hole week combined with its own hashtag, according to NASA. "I think they wanted to highlight all the work in the black hole that NASA telescopes do and do, and combine them into a weeklong social media event," Peter Edmonds, spokesman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the X-ray Observatory, written in an email.
With their sights relatively close to home, astronomers at the University of California, Los Angeles, report this month a giant black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy became unexplained.
The black hole, an abyssal tomb with a mass of about 4.3 million suns, usually emits a dull radio glow when gas and dust swirl and heat up. However, this summer, it got so hot and bright that astronomers took it as a true star .
Andrea Gez, USA. the astrophysicist who has long followed the object known as Sagittarius A * has never seen it so vividly. "It's usually a pretty quiet, dirty black hole on a diet," she said in a news release. "We don't know what this big holiday is about."
He may have swallowed an asteroid or it may have been fractured and eventually swallowed by a double star gas called G2 that passed near the black hole in 2014.
Looking further away, other astronomers notice a black hole that destroys and shatters a star in a distant galaxy. It happened in January in view of NASA's pair of cosmic eyes – a robotic telescope in South Africa that is part of a network called the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, or ASASSN (pronounced "killer")
Tom Holoen of the Carnegie Observatory is exploring the sky as part of his work on the Chilean Telescope Network . He saw a sudden lightning strike in a galaxy located 375 million light-years behind the shuttle constellation in the far southern sky.
Dr. Holoien alerts operators of NASA's Swift satellite, which monitors X-rays from violent high-energy events, and the NASA exoplanet transit satellite, or TESS, which casually stares in that part of the sky looking for flashing sunlight in front of them . As a result, TESS records the whole event against the background of its search for the planet.
Gradually, astronomers realized that lightning was not acting as a supernova, but rather as an event of interruption of tides. In such a disaster, a star wandering too close to a black hole experiences strong tidal forces that crush it. The star is reduced to spaghetti-like streams of gas circling the black hole. Some gases eventually fall and disappear, but much of it is thrown free and crashes into other gases. "It's a messy process where a lot of gas is flowing in different directions at high speed," says Dr. Holoen.
Astronomers have seen this happen about two dozen times in other distant galaxies, but so far not in our own, Dr. Holoen said. He described the event in January as a "poster child" for crushing black holes. The object's mass is about 6.3 million times that of our sun, making it a bit more massive than the black hole that crouched in the center of the Milky Way.
"We don't know that much about the star," Dr. Holoen says, though he says it is probably "quite similar to our sun."
If there are any astronomers to be found in a distant trio of galaxies called SDSS J084905.51 + 111447.2, they are probably anxiously awaiting the display of fireworks, which unfortunately will put an end to their own existence. The three galaxies swirl into each other in the slow fusion dance, each bringing a supermassive black hole at its center. These giant wheel-behemoths are about to collide in about 1 billion years.
Such a collision would shatter the bones of the Cosmos and could shake matter. One of the black holes is 460 million to 2.9 billion times more massive than the sun, according to radio and X-ray measurements, said Ryan Pfeifle of George Mason University and the lead author of a recent galaxy book.
At present, galaxies and their dense black hearts lie about 30,000 light-years away, at least when viewed from Earth, which is about 1 billion light-years away. But no one really knows what will happen when they get close to each other.
"Not all galaxies that appear to be" merging "will actually be" completely "fused," Dr. Pfeiple said in an email. "Sometimes you have interactions that look like continuous merging, but the galaxies never actually merge."
One probable possibility is that the gravitational forces between the holes throw one of them, leaving the other two closer and more likely  "At this point, I would say that someone's guess is that, if there are any, black holes will be fired," Dr. Pfeipple wrote. "Simulations in the literature predict that should happen when three supermassive black holes interact." But without more data on the orbits and energies of these objects, he added, it was impossible to predict how, when or if the apocalypse happens.
A collision between two or three supermassive black holes can ignite gravity wave detectors on Earth.
Make Every Week Black Hole Week
In September 2015, these observatories gave Einstein the greatest moment of a century when they recorded ripples in space and time resulting from the collision of a pair of black holes. The data is in complete agreement with his prediction that enough matter and energy in one place will sink together endlessly, wrapping space and time like a glove around it – a black hole.
LIGO and his others have made it clear that the universe is full of those beasts that roar and crash into the dark. After a short break, the LIGO Antenna twins and their European VIRGO connection resumed their duty this spring. Their time has paid off.
Last spring, I downloaded a smartphone app called Gravitational Waves Events, which sends a signal every time LIGO or VIRGO detects an assumed gravity wave. The signal arrives as a short stroke, the characteristic signal produced by a pair of colliding black holes as they accelerate in the final seconds of their marriage.
Has passed about four dozen times since April. Sometimes I hear it in my sleep.
Of course, black holes do not circle the universe like vampires seeking victims. They are as lazy as they are fat. They eat what the winds and currents of space and gravity dance bring to them.
But it can be many. The more astronomers learn about the universe, the more it seems that what is spinning around is in the form of meteoroids from Mars or interstellar comets from other stars. Forgetting is arbitrary. The questions raised by black holes about what can be delicately called End Country – whatever happens when you hit the bottom of a black hole – are always with us.
Fear, be very afraid. I hope you enjoyed the week with Black Hole.