Black holes don’t emit light, which makes them difficult to study. Fortunately, many black holes are loud eaters. As they consume nearby matter, surrounding material is superheated. As a result, the material can glow intensely, or be thrown away from the black hole as relativistic jets. By studying the light from this material we can study black holes. And as a recent study shows, we can even determine their size.
Active supermassive black holes, also known as active galactic nuclei (AGN). Don’t simply shine with constant brightness. Their luminosity can change slightly over time. The timescale of this flickering can be anywhere from hours to years. Early studies have argued that this could be related to the size of the black hole, but the relationship isn’t always clear.
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