Queen's scientists discover black hole ripping apart star
May 04, 2012
Astronomers from Queen's University Belfast have gathered the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close. The Queen's astronomers are part of the Pan-STARRS international team, whose discovery has been published in the journal Nature today (Wed, 2 May).
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 a slew of ground and space-based telescopes, a team of astronomers led by Suvi Gezari of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has identified the victim in this case as a star rich in helium gas. The star resides in a galaxy 2.7 billion light-years away.
The observation yields insights about the harsh environment around black holes and the types of stars swirling around them.
Speaking about the discovery Professor Stephen Smartt of Queen's Astrophysics Research Centre in the School of Maths and Physics said: "Astronomers have spotted these stellar 'murders' before, but this is the first time they can identify the victim.
"What we're seeing is a star being shredded by a monster black-hole in the centre of this distant galaxy. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way has a black hole at its centre, about a million times the mass of the sun. We can see stars whizzing around our Milky Way black hole, but they are too far away from it to be captured.
"In this case a star got too close to the black hole and was sucked right in. We're seeing the star being shredded, heated and destroyed and as it swirls around the black hole. Suvi Gezari, team leader from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, alerted us to something unusual caught by the NASA spacecraft called GALEX, and as our computers sifted through terabytes of Pan-STARRS data, we found the tell-tale signature of the event. We knew it was something weird then."
To find this one event, the team monitored hundreds of thousands of galaxies in ultraviolet light with the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), a space-based observatory, and in visible light with the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on the summit of Haleakala, in Hawaii. 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. They found one in June 2010, which was spotted with both telescopes. Both telescopes continued to monitor the flare as it reached peak brightness a month later, and then slowly began to fade over the next 12 months. The brightening event was similar to that of a supernova, but the rise to the peak was much slower, taking nearly one and a half months.
Team leader, Suvi Gezari from The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. said: "This is the first time where we have so many pieces of evidence, and now we can put them all together to weigh the perpetrator (the black hole) and determine the identity of the unlucky star that fell victim to it. These observations also give us clues to what evidence to look for in the future to find this type of event."
Queen's University Belfast
Related Black Hole Current Events and Black Hole News ArticlesA cross-section of the universe
An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet confirmed by Gemini and Keck observatories
"What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form," says Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center who led the paper published in the current issue of the journal Science.Georgia Tech researchers use XSEDE supercomputers to understand and predict how black holes swallow stars
Somewhere in the cosmos an ordinary galaxy spins, seemingly at slumber. Then all of a sudden, WHAM! A flash of light explodes from the galaxy's center. A star orbiting too close to the event horizon of the galaxy's central supermassive black hole is torn apart by the force of gravity, heating up its gas and sending out a beacon to the far reaches of the universe.Amino acid fingerprints revealed in new study
Some three billion base pairs make up the human genome-the floor plan of life. In 2003, the Human Genome Project announced the successful decryption of this code, a tour de force that continues to supply a stream of insights relevant to human health and disease. Watching for a black hole to gobble up a gas cloud
Right now a doomed gas cloud is edging ever closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. These black holes feed on gas and dust all the time, but astronomers rarely get to see mealtime in action. Simple, like a neutron star
In how many ways can one describe an object? Take an apple: by just looking at it we can easily estimate its weight, shape and colour but we are unable to describe it at any other level, for example, to evaluate the chemical composition of its flesh. New fast and furious black hole found
A team of Australian and American astronomers have been studying nearby galaxy M83 and have found a new superpowered small black hole, named MQ1, the first object of its kind to be studied in this much detail.RXTE Reveals the Cloudy Cores of Active Galaxies
Picture a single cloud large enough to span the solar system from the sun to beyond Pluto's orbit. Now imagine many such clouds orbiting in a vast ring at the heart of a distant galaxy, occasionally dimming the X-ray light produced by the galaxy's monster black hole.When a black hole shreds a star, a bright flare tells the story
Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz uses computer simulations to explore the universe's most violent events, so when the first detailed observations of a star being ripped apart by a black hole were reported in 2012 (Gezari et al., Nature), he was eager to compare the data with his simulations.Australians discover oldest star
A team led by astronomers at The Australian National University has discovered the oldest known star in the Universe, which formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.
More Black Hole Current Events and Black Hole News Articles
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|
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author)
A vibrant collection of essays on the cosmos from the nation's best-known astrophysicist. “One of today’s best popularizers of science.”—Kirkus Reviews. 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...
A Black Hole Is Not a Hole|
by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano (Author)
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: 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 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.
Black Holes (True Books)|
by Ker Than (Author)
Book Details:Format: PaperbackPublication Date: 3/1/2010Pages: 48Reading Level: Age 7 and Up
Black Holes! Learn About Black Holes and Enjoy Colorful Pictures - Look and Learn! (50+ Photos of Black Holes)|
Are your kids interested in Black Holes? Awesome! You have found the right book. Help your children learn more about Black Holes today by reading this book.
Here is what is included inside "Black Holes! Learn About Black Holes and Enjoy Colorful Pictures – Look and Learn!"...
Rogue Black Holes
Black Hole Images
Black Hole Facts
Supermassive Black Holes
Black Hole Structures
Fun Black Hole Facts
And Lots More!
Includes over 50 high quality photos of Black Holes!
Other bonuses inside "Black Holes! Learn About Black Holes and Enjoy Colorful Pictures – Look and Learn!"...
This book has photos of Black Holes.
This book has info on Black...
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...
Black Holes: And Other Bizarre Space Objects (Science Frontiers)|
by David Jefferis (Author)
Book Details:Format: PaperbackPublication Date: 3/1/2006Pages: 32Reading Level: Age 9 and Up
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,...