Researchers detail how a distant black hole devoured a star

Aug 24, 2011
Positions from Swift's XRT constrained the source to a small patch of sky that contains a faint galaxy known to be 3.9 billion light-years away. But to link the Swift event to the galaxy required observations at radio wavelengths, which showed that the galaxy's center contained a brightening radio source. Analysis of that source using the Expanded Very Large Array and Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) shows that it is still expanding at more than half the speed of light. Credit: NRAO/CfA/Zauderer et al.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two studies appearing in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Nature provide new insights into a cosmic accident that has been streaming X-rays toward Earth since late March. NASA's Swift satellite first alerted astronomers to intense and unusual high-energy flares from the new source in the constellation Draco.

"Incredibly, this source is still producing X-rays and may remain bright enough for Swift to observe into next year," said David Burrows, professor of astronomy at Penn State University and lead scientist for the mission's X-Ray Telescope instrument. "It behaves unlike anything we've seen before."

Astronomers soon realized the source, known as Swift J1644+57, was the result of a truly extraordinary event -- the awakening of a distant galaxy's dormant black hole as it shredded and consumed a star. The galaxy is so far away, it took the light from the event approximately 3.9 billion years to reach Earth.

Burrows' study included NASA scientists. It highlights the X- and gamma-ray observations from Swift and other detectors, including the Japan-led Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) instrument aboard the .

The second study was led by Ashley Zauderer, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. It examines the unprecedented outburst through observations from numerous ground-based radio observatories, including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Expanded (EVLA) near Socorro, N.M.

Most galaxies, including our own, possess a central supersized black hole weighing millions of times the sun's mass. According to the new studies, the black hole in the galaxy hosting Swift J1644+57 may be twice the mass of the four-million-solar-mass black hole in the center of the . As a star falls toward a black hole, it is ripped apart by intense tides. The gas is corralled into a disk that swirls around the black hole and becomes rapidly heated to temperatures of millions of degrees.

The innermost gas in the disk spirals toward the black hole, where rapid motion and magnetism create dual, oppositely directed "funnels" through which some particles may escape. Jets driving matter at velocities greater than 90 percent the speed of light form along the black hole's spin axis. In the case of Swift J1644+57, one of these jets happened to point straight at Earth.

Swift's X-Ray Telescope continues to record high-energy flares from Swift J1644+57 more than three months after the source's first appearance. Astronomers believe that this behavior represents the slow depletion of gas in an accretion disk around a supermassive black hole. The first flares from the source likely coincided with the disk's creation, thought to have occurred when a star wandering too close to the black hole was torn apart. Credit: NASA/Swift/Penn State

"The radio emission occurs when the outgoing jet slams into the interstellar environment," Zauderer explained. "By contrast, the X-rays arise much closer to the black hole, likely near the base of the jet."

Theoretical studies of tidally disrupted stars suggested they would appear as flares at optical and ultraviolet energies. The brightness and energy of a black hole's jet is greatly enhanced when viewed head-on. The phenomenon, called relativistic beaming, explains why Swift J1644+57 was seen at X-ray energies and appeared so strikingly luminous.

When first detected March 28, the flares were initially assumed to signal a gamma-ray burst, one of the nearly daily short blasts of high-energy radiation often associated with the death of a massive star and the birth of a black hole in the distant universe. But as the emission continued to brighten and flare, astronomers realized that the most plausible explanation was the tidal disruption of a sun-like star seen as beamed emission.

By March 30, EVLA observations by Zauderer's team showed a brightening radio source centered on a faint galaxy near Swift's position for the X-ray flares. These data provided the first conclusive evidence that the galaxy, the radio source and the Swift event were linked.

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. Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

"Our observations show that the radio-emitting region is still expanding at more than half the speed of light," said Edo Berger, an associate professor of astrophysics at Harvard and a coauthor of the radio paper. "By tracking this expansion backward in time, we can confirm that the outflow formed at the same time as the Swift X-ray source."

Swift, launched in November 2004, is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It is operated in collaboration with Penn State, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in N.M. and Orbital Sciences Corp., in Dulles, Va., with international collaborators in the U.K., Italy, Germany and Japan. MAXI is operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency as an external experiment attached to the Kibo module of the space station. For images and animations related to the studies, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/swift

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that_guy
3.8 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2011
Nom nom nom nom nom
HannesAlfven
1.8 / 5 (14) Aug 24, 2011
The second img looks to exhibit distinct filaments emanating from the center, and possibly even a filament which bisects those, circumnavigating this central region.

If that turns out to be the case, then this is incidentally the characteristic shape of a Faraday (or homopolar) motor, and very similar to x-ray imagery of the center of our own galaxy, which we see at a different angle.

The notion that an invisible black hole is what ultimately causes the rotation is neither demonstrable nor even necessary. The black hole is itself unnecessary if cosmic plasmas are permitted to transfer electrical energies as their laboratory cousins do.

Plasma physicists routinely create these morphologies within the lab, so it's not clear why astrophysicists insist upon inferring black holes, nor why they position the black hole inference as the only option. In doing so, they appear to ignore decades of plasma research, make sweeping assumptions about cosmic plasmas and arguably confuse the public
yyz
5 / 5 (8) Aug 24, 2011
"The second img looks to exhibit distinct filaments emanating from the center, and possibly even a filament which bisects those, circumnavigating this central region."

@Hannes,

Sorry to disappoint you but those apparent filaments are (well known) instrumental artifacts produced by the optics of the XRT aboard the SWIFT satellite. Your convoluted presupposition that follows is thus in error for Swift J1644 57.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2011
Yes, no one has ever considered or hypothetically tested plasma cosmology, ever. Anyone who has and says it doesnt match up with what we see is lying and part of a conspiracy, right?
hard2grep
not rated yet Aug 24, 2011
flashlights from ... the heavens. Just imagining the amount of force coming out of that spout; I wonder what bands this one spiked out in.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2011
On April 21, LaViolette predicted that this would turn out to be a newly formed quasar for several reasons: 1. centered on the galaxy core in active state, 2. X-ray luminosity within typical range of quasars, 3. X-ray luminosity is highly variable on short time scales as in quasars, and 4. Emission of synchrotron radiation like a quasar.

Early explanations of star consumption predicted the event lasting only weeks, and no more than a few months. That model seems to be harder to sustain at this point.

The clock continues to tic....

http://www.physor...ion.html
yyz
5 / 5 (5) Aug 24, 2011
"On April 21, LaViolette predicted that this would turn out to be a newly formed quasar for several reasons....."

Link please.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2011
Thanks for asking nicely. See the April 21st entry in his superwave blog.

http://starburstf...aveblog/
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2011
This brief, early arXiv paper discusses the stellar tidal disruption scenario for J1644plus57: http://arxiv.org/...28v1.pdf
yyz
5 / 5 (8) Aug 24, 2011
""On April 21, LaViolette predicted that this would turn out to be a newly formed quasar for several reasons....."

Thanks for the link. I see LaViolette understates the x-ray light output for average quasars and then claims that Swift 1644's energy output is near the top of the range for quasar outputs! Just out of the gate that's wrong (see my link above).

Gamma ray emission from Swift 1644 is nowhere near what is observed in QSOs. The high energy spectrum is a complete mismatch with a QSO' high enery spectrum. And no observational evidence is put forth to back up his claims, only his say so. Show me credible *observations* that show that Swift 1644 is a quasar. Any reference NOT associated with LaViolette would be most welcome.
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (6) Aug 25, 2011
Creating a miniature blackhole at the LHC would be hitting a self destruct button on the earth. At first the effects would be subatomic but growth rate is exponential by the time the effects begin to emerge in our relative scale (human senses) we'd be done for. I really hope precautions are in place to contain and eradicate such a creation.

Expecting the blackhole to decay is inverse mathematics. The blackhole inwardly decays (it becomes larger) and the larger it becomes the greater its gravitational force (in other words the bigger the baby gets the more the baby can eat).

I know this may be the incorrect article to mention this under but I really hope there is a contingency plan in place (maybe something as simple as a containment orb and a rocket to shuttle the baby blackhole to a save location where it can feed on something other than me).

IMO the mini-blackhole will not evaporate, not likely. Blackhole dynamics show a no stop acceleration into singularity (aka Nowhere).
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (7) Aug 25, 2011
Blackholes don't exist. They are universal exit points. Anything drawn into the exit point leaves the universe (maybe permanently, maybe temporarily, maybe both?). The point is the singularity is non existent in our universe and yet it resides in our universal space. Such a conundrum. the level of separation is infinite.

Relativity becomes irrelative. This singular point which appears infinitely small may contain more particles than our whole universe holds (that is, if it hold any at all). Each black hole may be a whole other universe, or, perhaps a portal into another part of our own universe. Weirder still this blackhole may be our universe, the beginning and end of the universe. The blackhole may suck in energy & matter and as a whitehole (like big bang) it may blow this matter and energy and create replicas or alternate realities, the multiverse.

It is a weird world we live in. Let's keep it long enough to normalize it.
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (6) Aug 25, 2011
The LHC holds more power than most realize. We all understand that the current theories favor evaporation for mini's. What are the safeguards should the unfavorable happen. If a bh is created how can it be contained, vacuum would probably be best as no material would be in direct vicinity for the blackhole to devour. (matter antimatter creation would be highly likely in the vacuum surrounding the bh). Given time though strange things would begin to happen. Literally. Strange matter creation would begin (think matter minus weakforce). Highly stable hadrons would begin to form (strangely decayless). A blackhole can do strange things. Matter becomes infinitely small before exiting the universe (infinitely dense). What happens when it hits the singularity?
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (5) Aug 25, 2011
Quark gluon soup is matters last wimper as it is converted to energy which further rips the field increasing the bh's gravitational potential. As it comes so it goes (and maybe comes back again?). Since the singularity is not a physical property of the universe as matters approach ensues physical forces recede. Weakforce (decay) and Em force become electroweakforce. This force then stops. Strong force reaches infinite pressure and the matter becomes... None. All of the physical laws seize to exist. The blackhole eats reality.

What does this mean? Electroweakforce stops = time stops. Strong force becomes so dominant (without *radiation, *as in em and weak force) that all particles merge into a singular, nonexistent point.
omatumr
1 / 5 (10) Aug 25, 2011
Blackholes don't exist.


I agree.

Black holes were proposed before neutron repulsion was discovered as the most powerful source of nuclear energy - releasing a greater fraction of rest mass as energy than fission or fusion [1].

That finding was also fatal to

a.) The AGW fable of Al Gore and the UN's IPCC, and

b.) The 1967 Bilderberg decision that Earth's heat source is a steady, homogeneous H-fusion reactor [2] that cannot cause climate change.

Black holes, AGW, and the SSM model of H-filled stars are falsified by information recorded in nuclear rest mass data [1].

Group-think Lysenkoism [3] directed by those who control research funds failed in the old USSR. Lysenkoism is also failing in the West now.

1. www.springerlink....6685079/

2. http://adsabs.har...oPh.3.5G

3. www.skepdic.com/lysenko.html

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2011
A possible second example of a tidally disrupted star, dubbed Sw J2058 05, was recently discussed in a paper on arXiv: http://arxiv.org/...07v1.pdf

It will be interesting to see how common (or not) these events turn out to be (observed from Earth, that is, as opposed to their overall occurrence in the universe).
yyz
5 / 5 (5) Aug 25, 2011
"Black holes, AGW, and the SSM model of H-filled stars are falsified by information recorded in nuclear rest mass data [1]."

Oliver, kindly link a published paper (by you or any competent astrophysicist) that contains *observations* conclusively showing that Sag A* ( http://en.wikiped...i/Sag_A* ) is a 4 million solar-mass "supermassive neutron star".

This might entail a quantitative discussion of your "nuclear rest mass data" and specifically how it compares with the *observed* spectrum and accretion disk properties of Sag A*.

Are you up for the heavy lifting?
Tuxford
1 / 5 (1) Aug 25, 2011
@yyz

Your reference to the Sw J2058 05 paper acknowledges the possibility that this might turn out to be powered by an active AGN, if repeated outbursts are observed over the coming months and years. Still too soon to be sure. But a new class of objects is possible. (Love those classifications. Makes me feel like I have learned something!)
yyz
5 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2011
"Your reference to the Sw J2058 05 paper acknowledges the possibility that this might turn out to be powered by an active AGN, if repeated outbursts are observed over the coming months and years. Still too soon to be sure."

Yeah, it could be an AGN. Why not compare with other published work (see comments below)? Too bad your "mentor" LaViolette only mentions that Sw J1644plus57 is noted as a putative disrupted star but goes no deeper in comparing and contrasting the expected EM emissions from the two scenarios (disrupted star vs young QSO), among other observed properties. How very scientific of him.

Do you really see no slant in his post(s)on this matter Tuxford? There are now over a half-dozen papers on this object alone now. I see he only cites one. Why is that, I wonder?

At least you "feel" you have learned something. Congrats.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (2) Aug 26, 2011
"Black holes, AGW, and the SSM model of H-filled stars are falsified by information recorded in nuclear rest mass data [1]."

Oliver, kindly link a published paper (by you or any competent astrophysicist) that contains *observations* conclusively showing that Sag A* ( http://en.wikiped...i/Sag_A* ) is a 4 million solar-mass "supermassive neutron star".

This might entail a quantitative discussion of your "nuclear rest mass data" and specifically how it compares with the *observed* spectrum and accretion disk properties of Sag A*.

Are you up for the heavy lifting?

Agreed. Oliver its time you put up or shut up and provide some hard evidence and address the many questions ethelred has posed you run away from. hell, who am i kidding, we all know you are going to run away from this thread too or just answer with those same old tired links and papers that dont prove what you claim they do.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2011
Well oliver? dont pretend this thread doesnt exist anymore. Either provide the evidence or admit you dont have any.
yyz
5 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2011
"Well oliver? dont pretend this thread doesnt exist anymore. Either provide the evidence or admit you dont have any."

He's doing the same ole' evasion/denial deal over here: http://www.physor...firstCmt

Oliver can't answer simple questions by you, me, Ethel, barakan, and others, goes off on fantasy non-sequiturs about Kissinger & China, rambles on about conspiracies and ignores evidence. It's his M.O. I guess.

Someone posted he wants to talk science. I'm all ears.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2011
We should keep on mind, everything what the astronomers observed was just a few gamma ray photons. Everything else is just a less or more clever/wild extrapolation of reality, which may - or may not - exist at all. It's virtually impossible to test it in another independent way in this moment and the physics should be just about testable hypothesis.
yyz
5 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2011
"....everything what the astronomers observed was just a few gamma ray photons. Everything else is just a less or more clever/wild extrapolation of reality....."

LOL. Do your homework, rawa/Callipo/zephyr:

http://arxiv.org/...68v1.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...87v2.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...09v1.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...85v3.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...90v1.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...16v3.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...28v2.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...56v1.pdf

http://arxiv.org/...57v1.pdf

See the radio through gamma-ray SED of this object in in the last link, Fig. 1(pg 13). More than a few GR photons to go on, wouldn't you agree?