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.