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Astronomers get first ever glimpse of a supermassive black hole swallowing a star


With the term “black hole’, comes a series of complex scientific questions, the majority of which are about the level of strength it possesses and its power. Although since a long time experts have been saying that black holes boast potent cosmic forces, to date no one managed to observe an actual demonstration of its might in front of a star boasting equal strength.

However, now, a new study published in the journal Science on November 26, 2015, is saying that astronomers have finally succeeded in witnessing a supermassive black hole engulfing a star as big as the Sun.

The event was monitored by a team of international researchers. Together, they saw how the gigantic star moved away from its conventional path, got caught by the supermassive black hole’s extreme gravitational pull, and got fully swallowed.

Upon completion of the above steps and before disappearing completely into the horizon, the enormous star got disintegrated fully and formed a disk of debris around the black hole. All the fragments thus formed were sent to different corners of the space at a speed similar to that of light. This gave birth of plasma jets.


The study’s lead researcher Sjoert van Velzen, an expert representing the Johns Hopkins University, said that these events don’t take place too often and added that this is the first time ever that scientists have managed to see the entire event starting from the star’s destruction to the launching of the jets.

A star’s flowing interruption due to a supermassive black hole leads to rapid emergence of thermal stellar TDFs (tidal disruption flares). While it is a fact believed by the majority of the scientists around the globe, none of them have ever witnessed any such event.





Curtin University’s astrophysicist Gemma Anderson, who happens to be a coauthor of this study, said that scientists have seen objects like giant gas clouds getting caught in black holes and then generating jets, but the process might taken hundreds of thousands of years to end. She added that the event described in this new study is more normal.

Stellar destruction was reported for the first time in December 2014 by a research team representing the Ohio State University. The team announced the discovery on Twitter. The findings by the Ohio State University researchers were investigated further by van Velzen and his colleagues.

SOURCEScience Magazine
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