Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Black Hole Caught Red-Handed in a Stellar Homicide

May 03, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. - Astronomers have gathered the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close. NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, a space-based observatory, and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii were among the first to help identify the stellar remains.

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.

Astronomers had spotted these stellar homicides before, but this is the first time they have identified the victim. 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. The star resides in a galaxy 2.7 billion light-years away. The team's results appear in today's online edition of the journal Nature.

"When the star is ripped apart by the gravitational forces of the black hole, some part of the star's remains falls into the black hole, while the rest is ejected at high speeds," Gezari said. "We are seeing the glow from the stellar gas falling into the black hole over time. We're also witnessing the spectral signature of the ejected gas, which we find to be mostly helium. It is like we are gathering evidence from a crime scene. Because there is very little hydrogen and mostly helium in the gas, we detect from the carnage that the slaughtered star had to have been the helium-rich core of a stripped star."

This observation yields insights about the harsh environment around black holes and the types of stars swirling around them. It is not the first time the unlucky star had a brush with the behemoth black hole.

The team believes the star's hydrogen-filled envelope surrounding the core was lifted off a long time ago by the same black hole. The star may have been near the end of its life. After consuming most of its hydrogen fuel, it had probably ballooned in size, becoming a red giant. Astronomers think the bloated star was looping around the black hole in a highly elliptical orbit, similar to a comet's elongated orbit around the sun. On one of its close approaches, the star was stripped of its puffed-up atmosphere by the black hole's powerful gravity. The stellar remains continued its journey around the center, until it ventured even closer to the black hole to face its ultimate demise.

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.

Spectroscopic observations with the Multiple Meter Telescope Observatory on Mount Hopkins in Arizona showed the black hole was swallowing lots of helium. Spectroscopy divides light into its rainbow colors, which yields an object's characteristics, such as its temperature and gaseous makeup.

To completely rule out the possibility of an active nucleus flaring up in the galaxy, the team used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to study the hot gas. Chandra showed that the characteristics of the gas didn't match those from an active galactic nucleus.

For images, video and more information about this study, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news/2012/18 .

For graphics and information about the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/galex and http://www.galex.caltech.edu

VIDEO

http://www.nasa.gov/mp4/645169main_v1218a_H264m.mp4

This computer simulation shows a star being shredded by the gravity of a massive black hole. Some of the stellar debris falls into the black hole and some of it is ejected into space at high speeds. The areas in white are regions of highest density, with progressively redder colors corresponding to lower-density regions. The blue dot pinpoints the black hole's location. The elapsed time corresponds to the amount of time it takes for a sun-like star to be ripped apart by a black hole a million times more massive than the sun. (Credit: NASA; S. Gezari, The Johns Hopkins University; and J. Guillochon, University of California, Santa Cruz)



Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Related Black Hole Current Events and Black Hole News Articles


A jettisoned black hole?
In his general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein predicted that there are such things as gravitational waves. In fact, the very existence of these waves is the linchpin of the entire theory.

NASA's Swift Mission Probes an Exotic Object: 'Kicked' Black Hole or Mega Star?
An international team of researchers analyzing decades of observations from many facilities, including NASA's Swift satellite, has discovered an unusual source of light in a galaxy some 90 million light-years away.

Unravelling the mystery of gamma-ray bursts
A team of scientists hope to trace the origins of gamma-ray bursts with the aid of giant space 'microphones'.

Research reveals the real cause of death for some starburst galaxies
Like hedonistic rock stars that live by the "better to burn out than to fade away" credo, certain galaxies flame out in a blaze of glory. Astronomers have struggled to grasp why these young "starburst" galaxies - ones that are very rapidly forming new stars from cold molecular hydrogen gas up to 100 times faster than our own Milky Way - would shut down their prodigious star formation to join a category scientists call "red and dead."

Mission to discover hundreds of black holes could unlock secrets of the universe
A team of Cardiff University researchers have made a breakthrough in helping scientists discover hundreds of black holes throughout the universe.

UCLA astronomers solve puzzle about bizarre object at the center of our galaxy
For years, astronomers have been puzzled by a bizarre object in the center of the Milky Way that was believed to be a hydrogen gas cloud headed toward our galaxy's enormous black hole.

New solar power material converts 90 percent of captured light into heat
A multidisciplinary engineering team at the University of California, San Diego developed a new nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants designed to absorb and convert to heat more than 90 percent of the sunlight it captures.

Lucky Star Escapes Black Hole With Minor Damage
Astronomers have gotten the closest look yet at what happens when a black hole takes a bite out of a star-and the star lives to tell the tale.

Big Black Holes Can Block New Stars
Massive black holes spewing out radio-frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found.

Construction secrets of a galactic metropolis
Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the Universe held together by gravity but their formation is not well understood.
More Black Hole Current Events and Black Hole News Articles

Black Hole

Black Hole
by Charles Burns (Author)


Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards

The setting: suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.

As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it , or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself — the savagery,...

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author)


“[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects . . . with great humor, humility, and—most important— humanity.” —Entertainment Weekly Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson's favorite essays, ?Death by Black Hole? explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America's best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our...

Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program)

Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program)
by Kip S. Thorne (Author), Stephen Hawking (Foreword)


Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them. Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where space and time are so violently warped that time ceases to exist and space becomes a kind of foam; gravitational waves, which carry symphonic accounts of collisions of black holes billions of years ago; and time machines, for traveling backward and forward in time.

...

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole
by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano (Author), Michael Carroll (Illustrator)


Get ready to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind!

What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline...

Black Holes (True Books: Space)

Black Holes (True Books: Space)
by Ker Than (Author)




Book Details:Format: PaperbackPublication Date: 3/1/2010Pages: 48Reading Level: Age 7 and Up

Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays

Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays
by Stephen W. Hawking (Author)


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

THIRTEEN EXTRAORDINARY ESSAYS SHED NEW LIGHT ON THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE—AND ON ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT THINKERS OF OUR TIME.
 
In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe.

Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his...

Black Holes: Everything You Need to Know About Black Holes and Black Hole Physics (space exploration, space, astronomy, Cosmology)

Black Holes: Everything You Need to Know About Black Holes and Black Hole Physics (space exploration, space, astronomy, Cosmology)



Everything you Need to Know about Black Holes and Black Hole Physics!

Black Holes have been, and are still to this day, one of the great mysteries of cosmology. They have inspired the imaginations of generations when looking out into space and have been the focus of astronomy for years. Today, much is known about black hole physics and the characteristics of these great beasts of space. This book will bring you up to speed with what we know today about black holes.


Here Is A Preview Of What You'll Learn...Black Hole FundamentalsBlack Hole HistoryBlack Hole FormationBlack Hole AnatomyEvent HorizonSpace and TimeEntering a Black HoleCosmology and AstronomySchwarzschild RadiusPrimordial Black HoleSupermassive Black HoleStellar Black HoleSingularityPhoton...

Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Powerful Purpose for Their Lives

Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Powerful Purpose for Their Lives
by Isaiah Hankel (Author)


"...an absurdly motivating book." -- A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author Don't get stuck on a career path you have no passion for. Don't waste your intelligence on something that doesn't really mean anything more to you than a paycheck. Let Isaiah Hankel help you define a focus so powerful that everything in your life will be pulled towards it. Create your purpose and change your life. Be focused. Be fulfilled. Be successful. Black Hole Focus has been endorsed by top names in business, entrepreneurship, and academia, including 4 times New York Times bestseller AJ Jacobs and Harvard Medical School Postdoc Director Dr. Jim Gould. The book is broken up into 3 different sections; the first section shows you why you need a purpose in life, the second section shows you how to...

The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
by Leonard Susskind (Author)


At the beginning of the 21st century, physics is being driven to very unfamiliar territory--the domain of the incredibly small and the incredibly heavy. The new world is a world in which both quantum mechanics and gravity are equally important. But mysteries remain. One of the biggest involved black holes. Famed physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that anything sucked in a black hole was lost forever. For three decades, Leonard Susskind and Hawking clashed over the answer to this problem. Finally, in 2004, Hawking conceded.

THE BLACK HOLE WAR will explain the mind-blowing science that finally won out, and the emergence of a new paradigm that argues the world--this catalog, your home, your breakfast, you--is actually a hologram projected from the edges of...

The Geometry of Kerr Black Holes (Dover Books on Physics)

The Geometry of Kerr Black Holes (Dover Books on Physics)
by Barrett O'Neill (Author)


This unique monograph by a noted UCLA professor examines in detail the mathematics of Kerr black holes, which possess the properties of mass and angular momentum but carry no electrical charge. Suitable for advanced undergraduates and graduate students of mathematics, physics, and astronomy as well as professional physicists, the self-contained treatment constitutes an introduction to modern techniques in differential geometry.
The text begins with a substantial chapter offering background on the mathematics needed for the rest of the book. Subsequent chapters emphasize physical interpretations of geometric properties such as curvature, geodesics, isometries, totally geodesic submanifolds, and topological structure. Further investigations cover relativistic concepts such as causality,...

© 2014 BrightSurf.com