Space news agencies and reporters are having a field day Thursday morning with police investigation lingo after a supermassive black hole was caught shredding a star that meandered too close, according to a computer simulation distributed by NASA
The space agency’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer
, a space-based observatory, and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope
on the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii helped identify the stellar remnants. The evidence showed the gravity of the black hole devouring the star; some of the debris fell into the black hole and some of it were emitted into space at rapid speeds.
Supermassive black holes are located in the epicentre of galaxies and weigh millions to billions times more than the sun. These behemoths lurk quietly until its powerful gravitational clasps disembowel the star.
“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,” said Suvi Gezari of the Johns Hopkins University in a press release
. “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 isn’t the first time that the cosmic murders have taken place. Astronomers have captured them before, but, according to Professor Stephen Smartt of Queen's Astrophysics Research Centre in the School of Maths and Physics in a news release
, this is the first time a star has been identified.
The team monitored hundreds of thousands of galaxies in ultraviolet light using the GALEX and Pan-STARRS1 in order to scan the complete night sky to find ephemeral phenomena, such as supernovae, gamma ray bursts, diffuse interstellar bands, relativistic jets and others.
Due to the many pieces of evidence, Gezari noted that the team of astronomers can now conclude the weight of the culprit and identify the victim. “These observations also give us clues to what evidence to look for in the future to find this type of event."
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