Did a giant black hole eat a star?


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

New data now suggests that what astronomers had thought was the brightest supernova ever detect might have instead been the ripping apart of a star as it passed too close to a supermassive black hole.

In this scenario, the extreme gravitational forces of a supermassive black hole, located in the centre of the host galaxy, ripped apart a Sun-like star that wandered too close — a so-called tidal disruption event, something so far only observed about 10 times. In the process, the star was “spaghettified” and shocks in the colliding debris as well as heat generated in accretion led to a burst of light. This gave the event the appearance of a very bright supernova explosion, even though the star would not have become a supernova on its own as it did not have enough mass. The team based their new conclusions on observations from a selection of telescopes, both on the ground and in space. Among them was the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and the New Technology Telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory

Share

3 comments

  • wayne

    Any gravitational-waves, produced by such an event?

  • Edward

    wayne,
    The event was observed in spring and summer of 2015, and that year, LIGO only operated from September 18th into 2016. I think that they missed any gravitational waves that would have been detectable.

  • wayne

    Edward-
    -Thank you. Was not sure of the timeline, or if that was even a possibility.
    The Paper associated with this event, is linked within the article, but I only skimmed it.
    (& I’m unclear on the minimum threshold the LIGO people need for G-W detection, or if a “Sun-sized” star interacting with a black-hole, produces detectable grav-waves.)

    pivoting…
    I’ll take this opportunity to shill for a new book from Dr. Roger Penrose. No new advances on his Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, but good-stuff on the state of Physics today, as he see’s it.

    “Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe”
    Dr. Roger Penrose at Oxford 10-25-16
    https://youtu.be/Gsp0Gak6Lw8
    (1:01:05)

    “In this lecture, based on his new book, Roger will argue that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential, may be leading today’s researchers astray, most notably in three of science’s most important areas – String Theory, Quantum Mechanics, and Cosmology. Yet Roger will also describe how fashion, faith, and fantasy have, ironically, also been invaluable in shaping his own work.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *