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Space & Astronomy

Black hole is observed 'swallowing' a star

By T.K. Randall
December 13, 2016 · Comment icon 18 comments

The star wouldn't have stood a chance. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 ESO/M. Kornmesser
Astronomers at Queen's University, Belfast have helped to discover an extremely rare celestial event.
The research had started out as an effort to identity the nature and origins of an "extraordinarily brilliant" light in the distant universe that US scientists had believed to be an exploding star.

As it turned out however, the light had actually come from a star that had wandered in to the path of a large spinning black hole and was torn to pieces by its extreme gravitational forces.

The black hole in question is thought to be over 100 million times the mass of the Sun.
When the star got too close it was ripped apart by what is known as a "tidal disruption event" before being "spaghettified" - a term used to describe what happens to matter under such conditions.

Some of the matter was converted in to light - thus explaining the bright light originally observed.

"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 wrote.

Source: BBC News | Comments (18)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by Derek Willis 6 years ago
Can someone answer this for me? Imagine the Universe consists of only the Earth and a pool ball located, say, a million kilometers from the Earth. For the sake of my point, assume the Earth has no atmosphere. Now, under the influence of gravity, the pool ball will be drawn towards the Earth. As it is pulled closer, the pool ball will accelerate due to its potential energy being converted into kinetic energy. At the point where the pool ball smacks into the Earth, its velocity will be the same as the Earth's escape velocity, i.e. about 11 km/sec. Now, imagine the Universe consists of a black ho... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by Anxiety_Potato 6 years ago
Im so happy that the word "spaghettification" is a real thing
Comment icon #11 Posted by Thorvir Hrothgaard 6 years ago
The death of the explorer most likely.  They aren't literally "holes".
Comment icon #12 Posted by brlesq1 6 years ago
This is fabulous. Can't wait to know more!
Comment icon #13 Posted by LucidElement 6 years ago
How did he help to discover this? I may be missing  something but how did they observe this? .... how do they know a star got eaten by a black hole ?
Comment icon #14 Posted by LucidElement 6 years ago
Comment icon #15 Posted by Derek Willis 6 years ago
I thought my question is fairly straightforward. It is finding an answer that I find difficult!
Comment icon #16 Posted by josellama2000 6 years ago
Derek, it should be very simple to imagine if you see the situation from a forth dimensions perspective.  The ball will never reach the event horizon, instead the ball enters in a state where the time begin to disappear. It is like for the ball the time is almost nonexistent. By definition, the event horizon is an object of 2 spatial dimensions with no time. For the ball, the more it approach the event horizon, the slower and flatter it becomes. But it actually will not totally freeze or totally become flat (it will not lose its height or its time), but it will orbit the event horizon forever ... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by MissJatti 6 years ago
Would have been cool, if they had a video of the event
Comment icon #18 Posted by Merc14 6 years ago
They used the output of several different telescopes all of which assumed this event was a supernova but, through their math, they realized it couldn't be and so after further research hypothesized it as a star being spaghettified.  From the article linked above:  The team from QUB's Astrophysics Research Centre was involved in gathering months of data from a selection of telescopes, both on earth and in space, including the Hubble space telescope. The light source, named ASASSN-15lh, was initially categorised in the US in 2015 as the brightest supernova (exploding star) ever seen. However, QU... [More]

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