Light Echo at Galactic Center

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Light Echo at Galactic Center: X-rays bounced off gas clouds near the Milky Way's supermassive black hole.
(Credit: NASA/CXC/Caltech/M.Muno et al.)

Caption: This set of Chandra images shows evidence for a light echo generated by the Milky Way's supermassive black hole, a.k.a. Sagittarius A*. Astronomers believe a mass equivalent to the planet Mercury was devoured by the black hole about 50 years earlier, causing an X-ray outburst which then reflected off gas clouds near Sagittarius A*. Studying this light echo gives a crucial history of activity from the black hole, and it also illuminates and probes the gas clouds near the center of the Galaxy.

Scale: Close up images are 5 arcmin across; Full-field is 12.5 arcmin across.

Chandra X-ray Observatory ACIS Images

CXC operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory