Black Hole Eats Star: Astrophysicists Salivate

A team of astrophysics researchers who were at a telescope on Mount Haleakala in Hawaii have published an article in Nature detailing their findings from 2010 when they witnessed a supermassive black hole taking down a star – and how they got to watch every second of it. A happening that is less common than you might think.

Black holes have been afflicted by a reputation analogous to that of sharks. Everyone seems to thinks black holes go hunting around the Universe for things to rip apart, just like sharks supposedly go killing everything in the ocean. Truth is, black holes are pretty quiet cosmological beasts that are only really evident when something starts to encroach on their personal space. In our own galaxy, it would take 10,000 years before anything was close enough to our central black hole to result in a spectacular death.

Usually when we get to see a star being swallowed by a black hole, we’ll end up turning to take a look at it only after the destruction has already begun. “What makes this so special was the fact that they actually caught the black hole as it was ripping the stellar core apart,” says Dr. David Floyd from the Monash Centre for Astrophysics in Melbourne.

The fact that we’ve managed to observe this event from beginning to end means that there is a lot more information available than ever before. We know the size of the black hole (approximately the same as the Milky Way’s central black hole), the fact that the star was probably a late-stage Red Giant and that it suffered its terrible fate because it got to within about 150 million kilometres of the supermassive black hole (about the same distance from the Sun to the Earth).

The gases from the star were sucked into the bottomless gravity pit and the friction gave it heat, creating a glow – the flare that astrophysicists are on the constant lookout for.

Modern telescopes like the Pan-STARRS (which is this one) and the LSST (the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope being built in Chile) mean that they can watch the Universe constantly, so they will hopefully catch more of these events and astrophysicists and researchers everywhere can all be satisfied with their own private viewings of the ferocious cosmic event.

Edit: Please note that this video is a computer simulation.

[Via ABC Science | Photo Credit]

4 Responses to Black Hole Eats Star: Astrophysicists Salivate

  1. Black *Hole*?

    It's a dark *star*–or, if you prefer, a black star. There is no 'hole.' There is no 'other side.' Indeed, there is no 'inside.' There is simply a mass so dense its gravity is strong enough to prevent light photons from escaping.

    Let's stop with the mystic fantasy. This is science, not an episode of Outer Limits.

  2. This article borders on fraud.

    First, there's no mention that the accompanying video is a computer simulation. That is NOT what they saw – not even close.

    Second, this article cuts out a crucial part of the press release, which said in part (referring to the supposed glow a star-eating-black-hole makes) "Chornock and his colleagues observed such a glow in May 2010 through a telescope mounted on Mount Haleakala in Hawaii, as well as a NASA satellite."

    If you removed the word "such" from this quote, then you'd have a factual statement. The rest of this entire article is bald, unsupported, uncorroborated supposition and does not warrant its portrayal as scientific discovery.

    They observed a glow. That's what happened. The rest is pure, weapons-grade fiction. And very bad science. In fact, it is simply nothing more than dogma.

    Since the only things we can see outside of our solar system, with the possible exception of extrasolar planets, are lights from the many various forms of energized plasma, the "black hole" doctrine has no claim (outside of stagnant paradigm rigor) to be considered as the only possible explanation for what was seen, much less the default.

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