A star swallowed by a black hole

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A research was published on 16th June, in the Journal Science, in a paper entitled “An Extremely Luminous Panchromatic Outburst from the Nucleus of a Distant Galaxy” regarding observations led by astronomers at the University of Warwick. These studies have shown that the flash from one of the biggest and brightest bangs yet recorded by astronomers comes from a massive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy. The black hole appears to have ripped apart a star that wandered too close, creating a powerful beam of energy that crossed the 3.8 billion light years to Earth.

University of Warwick researcher Andrew Levan said: “The best explanation that so far fits the size, intensity, time scale, and level of fluctuation of the observed event, is that a massive black at the very centre of that galaxy has pulled in a star and ripped it apart by tidal disruption. The spinning black hole then created the two jets one of which pointed straight to earth.”

The new research paper clearly establishes that the source of this event – (known now as Swift 1644+57) is right at the heart of far away galaxy, 3.8 billion light years away, at a spot that would be in the constellation Draco. The researchers used an array of telescopes to study Swift 1644+57, including Hubble Space Telescope, Swift satellite, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Gemini Observatory and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope to study the blast. Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope first discovered the source, on March 28, when it erupted with the first in a series of X-ray blasts.

 

A black hole is a region of space that has so much mass concentrated in it that there is no way for a nearby object to escape its gravitational pull. In general relativity, gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime. Massive objects distort space and time, so that the usual rules of geometry don’t apply anymore. Near a black hole, this distortion of space is extremely severe and causes black holes to have some very strange properties. In particular, a black hole has something called an ‘event horizon.’ This is a spherical surface that marks the boundary of the black hole.

You can pass in through the horizon, but you can’t get back out. In fact, once you’ve crossed the horizon, you’re doomed to move inexorably closer and closer to the ‘singularity’ at the center of the black hole. “This is truly different from any explosive event we have seen before,” said Joshua Bloom of the University of California-Berkeley, a co-author of research published in the journal Science. “We still don’t understand how black holes and the universe grow,” he said.

 

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“We think most black holes start off as being no more than the mass of our Sun … How they go from 10 solar masses to a billion solar masses is critical.”style=”color: windowtext; text-decoration: none;”

 

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