Scientists watch as black hole rips star to pieces
A star the size of our sun has been slowly eaten by a black hole 3.8 billion light years away
The death throes of a star being torn apart by a black hole 4 billion light years from earth have been recorded by scientists, who report that its slow demise has lasted for more than two-and-a-half months.
Usually when stars collapse they let out a single burst of radiation, but in this case the stricken star has been slowly ripped apart, sending out jets of energy as it is dragged into the black hole.
Such events, known as mini-quasars are incredibly rare and usually only happen once every 100 million years in any galaxy.
Scientists think the orbit of the star took it too close to a dormant black hole and it was sucked in. But rather than being destroyed in one fell swoop the star, about the size of our sun, has been gradually pulled to pieces.
Dr Joshua Bloom, from the University of California at Berkeley, explained: "As the black hole rips the star apart, the mass swirls around like water going down a drain, and this swirling process releases a lot of energy."
Astronomers reported their findings in the journal Science.
The carnage was recorded in the constellation of Draco, which is 3.8 billion light years from earth. However, something similar could happen in our own galaxy, which is also based around a black hole.
Bloom said: "[It] sits at the centre [of the galaxy] living in quiescence, and occasionally burbles or hiccups as it swallows a little bit of gas. From a distance, it would appear dormant, until a star randomly wanders too close and is shredded." ·
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