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In the Media

article imageBlack hole devours star one million times the mass of our sun

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By Andrew Moran
Aug 25, 2011 in Science
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Washington - Two studies are researching a supermassive black hole that devoured a star that ventured too close to the monster. The star was one million times the mass of our sun and light from the ordeal took 3.9 billion years to reach Earth.
Every galaxy contains a supermassive black hole in the center. These instruments of death are billions of times the mass of our sun and can cause utter destruction to anything in its path. It can gulp down a star that has become too close to it by pulling at its gravity.
NASA’s Swift satellite informed astronomers of powerful and concentrated flares from a cosmic accident near the constellation Draco. After some research, scientists concluded that the cosmic event was due to a distant galaxy’s black hole disembowelling and consuming a star.
According to a NASA news release, the annihilation’s light took 3.9 billion years to reach Earth. The incident is still producing X-rays and is believed to be bright enough and remain that way for satellites to observe it for another year.
The study, which involves NASA scientists, will research the gamma ray and X-ray observations from Swift and accompanying detectors, such as Japan-led Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI), which is attached to the International Space Station.
Images from Swift s Ultraviolet/Optical (white  purple) and X-Ray telescopes (yellow and red) were c...
NASA
Images from Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical (white, purple) and X-Ray telescopes (yellow and red) were combined to make this view of Swift J1644+57. Evidence of the flares is seen only in the X-ray image, which is a 3.4-hour exposure taken on March 28, 2011.
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The second study inspects the intermittent outbursts utilizing ground radio observations, including New Mexico’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA).
“The radio emission occurs when the outgoing jet slams into the interstellar environment,” said post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ashley Zauderer. “By contrast, the X-rays arise much closer to the black hole, likely near the base of the jet.”
On Mar. 28, flares were first detected as a signal of a gamma ray burst – usually a sign of the end of a massive star and the beginning of a black hole – but due to the brightness they concluded that it was a star similar to our sun.
Two days later, a brightening radio source inched closer to a distant galaxy near Swift for the X-ray flares. This information provided conclusive evidence that the Swift collision, the faint galaxy and X-ray flares were linked.
“Our observations show that the radio-emitting region is still expanding at more than half the speed of light,” said associate professor of astrophysics at Harvard and a co-author of the radio paper, Edo Berger. “By tracking this expansion backward in time, we can confirm that the outflow formed at the same time as the Swift X-ray source.”
The results of these studies can be found in the Aug. 25 edition of the journal Nature.
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For more information on black holes, please view the books listed below and watch the videos.
- A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy by Stephen Hawking
- An Introduction To Black Holes, Information And The String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe by Leonard Susskind
- Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku
- Cracking the Einstein Code: Relativity and the Birth of Black Hole Physics by Fulvio Melia
- Relativity: The General and Special Theory by Albert Einstein
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