Don't worry, but the Galaxy of Fireworks is breaking out.
To be fair, it exploded for a while – at least since 1917 (give or take the 25 million years that light takes to travel from this galaxy to Earth) when astronomers first saw a big star erupting in the supernova there. Since then, scientists have discovered close to a dozen star explosions in a lively galaxy, but no one resembles the mysterious green spot of X-ray visible in the image above.
What makes this spot special? For starters, this is not a supernova. The X-ray signature discovered by the NASA Nuclear Spectroscopy (NuSTAR) Observatory is far more energetic than that of a typical supernova. (You can see one of those explosions glowing blue in the upper right corner of the same image.) But more importantly, the X-ray energy burst also appeared and disappeared from the galaxy after about 1
So the greenish burst of invisible energy is probably not a supernova. What is it then? A study published on August 9 in the Astrophysical Journal makes several assumptions. The study's authors, who happened to look at a mysterious burst of energy while studying supernovae in the Fireworks Galaxy, said the mysterious burst probably involves one of the most powerful objects in the universe, probably a black hole or a neutron star, a neutron star, from its star neighbors.
Related: 9 ideas for black holes that will blow your mind
While black holes are, uh, black, their outer edges shine with intense radiation when nearby objects are drawn into the orbit of a black hole. According to a statement accompanying the study, may be the source of the green blast being a black hole that swallows a nearby star. As the prevailing gravity of the hole breaks away from the star, star debris can begin to rotate around the black hole. The debris closest to the event horizon of the hole (see: no return point) can orbit so fast that they become hundreds of times hotter than the earth's sun, emitting X-rays as it sucks into oblivion. The culprit here may also be the neutron star the superfluous corpse of a once mighty star. By packing roughly the same mass as our sun into a city-sized ball, neutron stars exert gravitational pull billions of times stronger than the earth. However, these star corpses rotate so fast that it may not be possible for nearby debris to reach the surface of the object, for the same reason that a "jump [ing] on a carousel rotating at thousands of miles an hour would be a challenge, study author Hannah Earnshaw, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement.
However, sometimes the oscillation in the magnetic field of a neutron star can slow down the rotation of the object enough for debris to enter the glowing halo of the star's destruction, a function similar to what can be rotate around a black hole. Waste extraction such as this can lead to the sudden appearance and disappearance of an X-ray explosion, such as what is seen here.
If this is the case, it is likely that the same lightning radiation will reappear at the same location after some future oscillation of the magnetic field. Scientists will continue to watch the Fireworks Galaxy for possible re-runs of this unusual X-ray event, expecting another unfortunate star to come out with a thunderstorm.
Originally published in Live Science.