NASA Observes Black Hole Shredding Star

Marshall Honorof

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NASA Observes Black Hole Shredding Star


Astronomers have seen a black hole tearing a star apart for the first time.

A lot of good things come out of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. The country's first hospital, President Woodrow Wilson, and even the ever-humble scribe of this article came from its hallowed halls. Now JHU, collaborating with NASA, has discovered something that dwarfs all of its previous findings - literally. Astronomers there have observed the first-ever evidence of a supermassive black hole destroying a star, piece by piece. This observation is a testament to the destructive power of one of the universe's oddest phenomena, as well as a sobering reminder of what may lie in the heart of our own galaxy.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (2.7 billion light years, to be precise), a dying star wandered too close to a black hole. In a series of images from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer in space and Pan-STARRS1's ground telescope in Hawaii, astronomers saw images of a star with an enormous observable flare stemming from its nucleus. At first, researchers believed that this energy could be anything from a nuclear flare to a supernova. However, x-ray observations of the gas present in this star ruled out those possibilities, and observation continued for over twelve months - an exceptionally long time for a star's brightness to wax and wane so dramatically.

"The longer the event lasted, the more excited we got, because we realized this is either a very unusual supernova or an entirely different type of event, such as a star being ripped apart by a black hole," said Armin Rest, a member of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Sure enough, the team observed that the star's flare was likely due to its helium being stripped off by a massive gravitational force. A black hole, several million times as massive as our own sun, was the likeliest culprit. It had dragged the dying star into its orbit and proceeded to systematically tear it apart, piece by piece.

All of this happened approximately 2.7 billion years ago, so the star is long gone, but there's no telling what the black hole has been up to since then. However, astronomers theorize that a similar black hole lies at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and stars do cross its orbit once every 100,000 years or so. If we observed such a phenomenon firsthand, it would be an incredible find - one might even say stellar. Or astronomical.

I'll just show myself out now.

Source: NASA [http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/galex/galex20120502.html]

Image: NASA [http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/galex/galex20120502.html]

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DeepComet5581

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Mar 30, 2010
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Sweet!

It's all very well theorising about Universal phenomena, but when one actually sees evidence of it happening (Admittedly, 2.7 billion years ago), then that confirms these theories and makes Science just a little better.

FOR SCIENCE!!
 

Flamezdudes

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Aug 27, 2009
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Huh, pretty cool.

It's crazy imagining how this happened so long ago and we're only able to observe it now.

The Plunk said:
Don't forget that the universe must have been made by a benevolent creator because it's so beautiful and perfectly made for the existence of life!
Oh, you! *waves hand*
 

Khravv

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Surely I can't be the only one who read "black hole shredding star" as meaning a star with the quality of black hole shredding. But that would be the opposite I guess.

Captcha: pea brain
I am not!
 

Something Amyss

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Dec 3, 2008
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Khravv said:
Surely I can't be the only one who read "black hole shredding star" as meaning a star with the quality of black hole shredding. But that would be the opposite I guess.
The opposite, but a freaking awesome concept.
 

repeating integers

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Our hopes and expectations
Black Holes and Revelations


Black holes have always scared me a bit. This is not helping.
 

Berenzen

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OhJohnNo said:
Our hopes and expectations
Black Holes and Revelations


Black holes have always scared facinated me a bit. This is not definitely helping.
Fixed for my point of view.
 

JayElleBee

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Jul 9, 2010
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Black holes terrify me. They're right up there with oceans and caves. ;_;

Now that I think about it, I generally don't like anything that's big and dark and ominous.
 

thiosk

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I'm always sad about black holes eating stars.

Thats a lot of matter lost to the universe for the days soon approaching in which my glorious fleets will strip the galaxy of its mineral wealth and lead a grand crusade against all who appose the glorious human glorious race.
 

CosmicCommander

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Apr 11, 2009
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Good article... wait...

A lot of good things come out of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore... President Woodrow Wilson...
Wait, did I read that right?

Did you... no... you can't be that dumb... to think... to even consider thinking that...

DEAR GOD, THIS GUY THINKS WOODROW WILSON WAS A GOOD PRESIDENT. ABANDON WEBSITE, EVERYBODY. COME ON, OUT, OUT OUT. INTELLECTUALS AND HISTORIANS FIRST, LET'S GET OUT.
 

Scarim Coral

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Oct 29, 2010
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Ok I watched the clip in their website and it's quite mesmerising eventhought it was form by sheer destruction.
 

Zen Toombs

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Science is awesome.

*Steals the image*

Captcha - come along, pond.

Yes Doctor!