Astronomers have snapped a picture of a black hole eating a star and then spitting a bit of it back up for the first time ever… and it looks pretty incredible.
The scientists tracked a star – which is about as big as our sun – as it was diverted from its usual path into a supermassive black hole which ate it all up. The high-speed flare than blasts out, escaping from the rim of the black hole. So cool.
Researchers have seen black holes killing and swallowing stars, but this new study shows the first time that they have captured the hot flare spewed out afterwards. The flare and swallowed star have never been linked together before.
Leader of the analysis, Sjoert van Velzen said in a statement:
These events are extremely rare. It’s the first time we see everything from the stellar destruction followed by the launch of a conical outflow, also called a jet, and we watched it unfold over several months. Previous efforts to find evidence for these jets, including my own, were late to the game.
The team carried out the study by learning about the first sight of a star being destroyed on Twitter, in December last year. Straight after this happened, van Velzen followed up on the black hole and used radio telescopes to catch those after effects.
Although progress has been made in humans understanding black holes, there is still a way to go and van Velzen summed it up pretty well, describing the destruction of a star by a black hole as ‘beautifully complicated’.
Supermassive black holes are thought to exist on the edge of most huge galaxies. The one that was seen in this situation, is towards the smaller end of the spectrum, at only a million times as big as our sun- but easily big enough to eat up a star.
The universe is such a wonderfully mysterious thing.