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Supermassive Black Hole Devours Star
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Scientists Miguel Perez-Torres and Seppo Mattila, as well as a team of 36 other scientists had the surprise of a lifetime in early June when they scanned the skies to catch a supermassive black hole violently devouring a star.
The black hole, which is sitting between two colliding galaxies, is 20 million times larger than our sun – and the star it consumed was more than twice the sun’s mass.
Perez-Torres works for the Astrophysical Institute of Granada, Spain, and Mattila works at the University of Turku in Finland.
This is the first time scientists have seen this happen, although they knew it did. When stars are consumed, material coming from the star creates a disk around the black hole – and that material emits X-rays and visible light.
“Never before have we been able to directly observe the formation and evolution of a jet from one of these events,” said Perez-Torres. What he’s referring to is the jets of material that fly out of the star, all at the speed of light, when a black hole rips it apart.
The thing with supermassive black holes is that their gravitational pull is so strong that even light can’t escape. They’re present in most galaxies, and theoretically, they consume plenty of stars – but what Perez-Torres and Mattila, as well as their team of scientists observed in early June, can help other scientists exactly what happens inside. It can also help scientists understand what type of environment exists when new galaxies develop.
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