Super massive blackhole caught devouring a star

Black-holes have a bad rep, but it’s deserved! They devour anything that comes too close and they aren’t satisified with merely tearing debris into quarks and blasting out burps of gamma radiation, they digest the remains in a bottomless pit. One blackhole, not too far away using the comsological standard, was caught doing exactly that:

(Harvard cfa) — If a star passes too close to a black hole, tidal forces can rip it apart. Its constituent gases then swirl in toward the black hole. Friction heats the gases and causes them to glow. By searching for newly glowing supermassive black holes, astronomers can spot them in the midst of a feast.The team discovered just such a glow on May 31, 2010 using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Mount Haleakala in Hawaii. The flare brightened to a peak on July 12th before fading away over the course of a year.

“We observed the demise of a star and its digestion by the black hole in real time,” said Harvard co-author Edo Berger.

The glow came from a previously dormant supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy 2.7 billion light-years away. The black hole contains as much mass as 3 million suns, making it about the same size as the Milky Way’s central black hole.


  1. says

    Actually to be fair. We didn’t catch the black hole devouring the star. We caught it devouring the star 2.7 billion years ago. So, instead of seeing the black hole at the restaurant, we’re watching its slide show presentation.

    “And here’s where I started to eat the star. Here’s where I released a super energetic gamma ray burst. Here’s my trip to Disneyland.”

  2. schmeer says

    Well, if you wanted to watch the event from near the Earth this is the earliest you could have seen it. I think Phil Plait has talked about the way astronomers refer to “things happening now” compared to “things happened really far away a long time ago”, but I can’t find that post.

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