A new mystifying event in space is puzzling astronomers around the world after a black hole -- or at least the ring of light around it -- appeared to vanish completely for 40 full days before returning once more, according to a new paper published yesterday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Though black holes are known for the fact that they cannot be seen, as not even light can escape their incredible force of gravity, there are other ways in which scientists can detect the objects, including a ring of light around its border known as the corona.
Astronomers noted that over a year's time, the corona of a black hole in a galaxy 275 million light-years away began to dim slowly until it disappeared altogether for 40 days.
"It became undetectable, which we have never seen before," said Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Erin Kara.
"We just don't normally see variations like this in accreting black holes," added astrophysicist Claudio Ricci of Diego Portales University in Chile, who headed the research team.
"It was so strange that at first we thought maybe there was something wrong with the data. When we saw it was real, it was very exciting. But we also had no idea what we were dealing with; no one we talked to had seen anything like this.""In this object, we saw it change by [a factor of] 10,000 over a year, and it even changed by a factor of 100 in eight hours, which is just totally unheard of and really mind-boggling," Kara said.
The incident is now being referred to by some scientific communities and publications -- such as popular website Science Alert -- as a black hole "blink."
Meanwhile, the research team behind the findings has suggested some causes for the blink. Many of them center on the belief that the corona of a black hole is influenced by its magnetic field.
Accordingly, the astronomers believe that something happened to shift the black hole's magnetic field -- like the object devouring a star that upset the normal balance of tidal forces.
A less exciting possibility is that the blink is a relatively normal occurrence for black holes, but simply had not been documented until present day.
Nevertheless, the scientific community is eager to learn more about the "exciting" new phenomenon.
In other space-related news, the former head of a secret U.S. agency at the Pentagon is claiming that it is "beyond reasonable doubt" that UFOs exist, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.