Nasa captures huge black hole pulling star to pieces after red giant wanders too close. A re giant star that wandered too close to the centre of a galaxy 2.7 billion light years away was pulled in by the enormous gravity of the black hole - and shredded.
Supermassive black holes, weighing millions to billions times more than the Sun, lurk in the centers of most galaxies.
These hefty monsters lie quietly until an unsuspecting victim, such as a star, wanders close enough to get ripped apart by their powerful gravitational clutches.
Using several ground- and space-based telescopes, a team of astronomers led by Suvi Gezari of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., identified the victim as a star rich in helium gas. Astronomers predict stripped stars circle the central black hole of our Milky Way galaxy. These close encounters are rare, occurring roughly every 100,000 years.
To find this event, Gezari’s team monitored hundreds of thousands of galaxies in ultraviolet light with the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, and in visible light with Pan-STARRS1. Pan-STARRS, short for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, scans the entire night sky for all kinds of transient phenomena, including supernovae.
The team was looking for a bright flare in ultraviolet light from the nucleus of a galaxy with a previously dormant black hole. Both telescopes spotted one in June 2010.
Astronomers continued to monitor the flare as it reached peak brightness a month later and slowly faded during the next 12 months.
The brightening event was similar to the explosive energy unleashed by a supernova, but the rise to the peak was much slower,taking nearly one-and-a-half months.
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 team member Armin Rest of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
By measuring the increase in brightness, the astronomers calculated the black hole’s mass to be several million suns, which is comparable to the size of our Milky Way’s black hole.