Flickering Black Hole
This movie shows observations of the black hole GX 339-4 done with ULTRACAM/VLT data at breakneck speeds of 20 measurements per second. Prominent flares are clearly visible in the small inset visible light images, as well as on the corresponding graph of the instantaneous brightness level. The other target Swift J1753.5-0127, though not shown here, also undergoes similar fast fluctuations. The rapid flickering originates within the innermost regions of the environment of a black hole whose gravity is tearing apart a neighbouring star.
The observations, done simultaneously with observations by the NASA RXTE X-ray satellite, reveal that the visible light emission display a fast spike just after the X-rays have peaked. This sequence of events was seen repeatedly over several hours of observation. It tells the astronomers that the optical and X-ray emissions are intrinsically linked, probably by the action of intense magnetic fields that can hurl material into jets.