Black Hole Wolfs Down Star, Burps Plasma
Astronomers have caught a black hole, red handed while gulping down a star and releasing a stream of hot matter.
The Washington Post reports that the star was similar to the Sun and around 300 million light years away. The black hole is super massive, about a million times the mass of the Sun. Over months, researchers observed the destruction of the star and also spotted the black hole burp out matter at the speed of light.
"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," Van Velzen said in a press release.
Black holes are extremely dense objects that can suck everything including light. Existing theories suggest that a black hole under certain conditions will eject hot plasma when it rapidly consumes large objects like stars.
Observations such as those made by Velzen's group are rare. Scientists have caught glimpses of stars being destroyed by black holes in the past but could not record in clear detail the process. Velzen's team was just in time to catch the star being devoured but was not the only ones to do so.
"The destruction of a star by a black hole is beautifully complicated, and far from understood. From our observations, we learn the streams of stellar debris can organize and make a jet rather quickly, which is valuable input for constructing a complete theory of these events," van Velzen said. The study has been published in the journal Science.