The first confirmed heartbeat of a supermassive black hole is still going strong more than ten years after first being observed. X-ray satellite observations spotted the repeated beat after its signal had been blocked by our Sun for a number of years. Astronomers say this is the most long lived heartbeat ever seen in a black hole and tells us more about the size and structure close to its event horizon – the space around a black hole from which nothing, including light, can escape.
The oscillating region is close to the black hole, so light travel paths that should be bent by the strong gravity, changing its appearance depending on inclination. These animations show how this region would look including this light bending when viewed edge on, and face on. Credit: Dr Frederic Vincent, Observatoire de Paris, France.