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Sagittarius A* Rivaled the Sun in the Ancient X-ray Sky


Amaro-Seoane,  Pau
Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Chen, X., & Amaro-Seoane, P. (submitted). Sagittarius A* Rivaled the Sun in the Ancient X-ray Sky.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002A-8035-C
Sagittarius A*, lying the Galactic Center $8$ kpc from Earth, hosts the closest supermassive black hole known to us. It is now inactive, but there are evidences indicating that about six million years ago it underwent a powerful outburst where the luminosity could have approached the Eddington limit. Motivated by the fact that in extragalaxies the supermassive black holes with similar masses and near-Eddington luminosities are usually strong X-ray emitters, we calculate here the X-ray luminosity of Sagittarius A*, assuming that the outburst was due to accretion of gas or tidal disruption of stars, both scenarios having been considered to trigger the previous outburst. We show that in both cases Sagittarius A* could precipitate on Earth an X-ray ($h\nu>2$ keV) irradiance comparable to that from the current quiescent sun. The irradiance in harder energy band $20~{\rm keV}<h\nu<100~{\rm keV}$, however, surpasses that from an X-class solar flare, and the irradiation timescale is also much longer, ranging from weeks to $10^5$ years depending on the outburst scenario. This level of radiation would disturb the ozone and ionosphere around the ancient earth, and affect the abundance of organic molecules in dense interstellar environments around the solar neighbourhood, but these prospects have not been adequately explored so far. Our results indicate that the activity of supermassive black hole and the origin and evolution of life may be more closely linked than previously has been thought.