Image: Black hole caught in a stellar homicide

Jul 12, 2012
Image Credit: NASA, S. Gezari (The Johns Hopkins University), and J. Guillochon (University of California, Santa Cruz)

(Phys.org) -- This computer-simulated image shows gas from a star that is ripped apart by tidal forces as it falls into a black hole. Some of the gas also is being ejected at high speeds into space.

Using observations from telescopes in space and on the ground, astronomers gathered the most direct evidence yet for this violent process: a shredding a star that wandered too close. NASA's orbiting (GALEX) and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii were used to help to identify the stellar remains.

A flare in ultraviolet and revealed gas falling into the black hole as well as helium-rich gas that was expelled from the system. When the star is torn apart, some of the material falls into the black hole, while the rest is ejected at high speeds. The flare and its properties provide a signature of this scenario and give unprecedented details about the stellar victim.

To completely rule out the possibility of an active nucleus flaring up in the galaxy instead of a star being torn apart, the team used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to study the hot gas. Chandra showed that the characteristics of the gas didn't match those from an active .

The galaxy where the supermassive black hole ripped apart the passing star in known as PS1-10jh and is located about 2.7 billion light years from Earth. Astronomers estimate the black hole in PS1-10jh has a mass of several million suns, which is comparable to the supermassive black hole in our own .

Explore further: Spitzer telescope witnesses asteroid smashup

Related Stories

How do supermassive black holes get so big?

Apr 26, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- At the center of most galaxies lie supermassive black holes that can grow to become more than a billion times larger than our Sun. However, astrophysicists don’t fully understand the formation ...

An Intriguing, Glowing Galaxy

May 14, 2009

A supermassive black hole may be responsible for the glowing appearance of galaxy 3C 305, located about 600 million light years away in the constellation Draco. Composite data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory ...

Image: Active Galaxy Centaurus A

Jan 04, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Resembling looming rain clouds on a stormy day, dark lanes of dust crisscross the giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A.

Image: A supermassive black hole

Jan 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a single exposure, astronomers were able to confirm the existence of a supermassive black hole in the center of galaxy M84.

Recommended for you

Spitzer telescope witnesses asteroid smashup

7 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the ...

Witnessing the early growth of a giant

Aug 27, 2014

Astronomers have uncovered for the first time the earliest stages of a massive galaxy forming in the young Universe. The discovery was made possible through combining observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble ...

User comments : 0