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Massive Black Hole Devours Star

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the om-nom-nom dept.

Space 77

H3xx writes "Astronomers have observed a black hole shredding a star and sending a powerful beam of energy toward Earth. When it was first observed on March 28th by the Swift spacecraft, it was thought to be the implosion of an aging star, but is now believed to be the result of a star wandering too close to a black hole, imploding and converting 10% of the star's mass into gamma radiation. The energy burst is still visible by telescope more than two-and-a-half months later, the researchers report in the journal Science."

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Does this goatse link still work? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479386)

Does this goatse [goatse.fr] link still work?

Gamma ray good. (0)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479432)

Hmm. Gamma rays.....

I'm getting angry......

Me smash!

Re:Gamma ray good. (0)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479528)

On a somewhat unrelated note, what's with the "omnomnom" and "omnomnomnom" tags attached to this story? :P

Re:Gamma ray good. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479620)

Black Hole: Me eat star! *omnomnom*
Star: *gurk*

Re:Gamma ray good. (1)

rilian4 (591569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479802)

Black Hole: Star, What's your favorite color?
Star: Red no Yellow no Blue no Black? aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

Re:Gamma ray good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479798)

what the hell other reason would there be other than the eating sound?

Re:Gamma ray good. (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479822)

Omnomnom and omnomnomnom are onomatopoeic words for the sound of one gobbling up something.

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479444)

Some cool, news for nerds!

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479496)

Next week we'll see someting along the lines of "Massive Black Hole Devours Bitcoins."

Re:Finally! (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479564)

Will we also get a Packt Publishing book on some drupal extension called "Black Hole" as well? That would be the trifecta!

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480884)

Heh, misread that as "Massive Black Hoe Devours Bitches"

Re:Finally! (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479732)

Some cool, news for nerds!

I dunno, I'd imagine it'd be a bit spicy....

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week! Try the Betelgeuse, it's to die for!

What that star was thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479454)

"D'oops!"

Massive black hole? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479474)

Confused. Is massive redundant or colloquially incorrect?

Re:Massive black hole? (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479516)

Neither. It's a relative term -- the black hole in question is the black hole at the centre of a galaxy. I've not read the Science article (I've only read the abstract) so they've not put numbers on it, but it'll be thousands and thousands times the mass of the Sun. A black hole which isn't massive would be up to maybe ten times the mass of the Sun.

Re:Massive black hole? (1)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 3 years ago | (#36484556)

Astrophysics people have definitions of different black hole classes, judged by their mass. There is a range of masses that have no superlative attached, micro black holes (which I think are only theoretical at this point), massive and super massive. I'm not sure what the ranges of each class are (wikipedia will help you there, no doubt), and there may be more classed than the four I've just listed, but to someone who knows a little more astrophysics than I the word "massive" tells them that this object is bigger than a certain mass but not massive enough to be in the "super massive" class. IIRC the massive and super massive types are usually found in the centre of galaxies.

Imploding? (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479484)

From TFA:

But this event, first spotted on 28 March 2011 and designated Sw 1644+57, does not have the marks of an imploding sun.

More like it got ripped apart. Shredded. As TFA's headline said.

The summary confused me, since pulling mass away from a star would remove the mass that contributes to implosion (which occurs when the continuous explosion within it slows to where it can't keep the star inflated enough and the density gets low enough for implosion to begin, leaving a neutron star or a black hole). But TFA straightened it out.

Re:Imploding? (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479780)

Is that to say that the black hole by shredding apart the star, created another black hole, probably residing in side the first one, seeing as it ate up the star??

Re:Imploding? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480400)

No, it's saying that it could not, because it's stripping matter away, preventing formation of a black hole or neutron star.

Re:Imploding? (1)

whiteboy86 (1930018) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482342)

Eh, the star got shredded into the accretion disk swirling around the central blackhole, but what we really observe here is the jet of matter beaming from the pole of the black hole. From that far distance we can only see it because the black hole is oriented towards us, so the relativistic jet is pointing directly in our direction. A rare alignment or a rare object, that is why it is so interesting.

Harmful? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479538)

How far away is this spectacle? Aren't gamma rays harmful?

Re:Harmful? (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479596)

Nearly 4 billion light years.

Re:Harmful? (2)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480352)

So, then, does this set a record on /. for the oldest "old news" story?

Re:Harmful? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480550)

No, the news about the Plank Telescope [wikipedia.org] have that record already.

Re:Harmful? (1)

jacksonyee (590218) | more than 3 years ago | (#36490756)

I would think that articles concerning the Big Bang would predate the 4 billion years of this story, so probably not. If you consider our past discussions about multiple universes, oscillating universes, and so forth, it becomes even more muddy. I personally would like it just fine if Slashdot managed to make it no more than a week behind the headlines on other sites, versus the months to years that we get sometimes around here. Still, there is no other site on the Internet besides Arstechnica that has the range and intelligence found in some of the comments here.

Re:Harmful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479602)

No, they are not. They pass right through your body.

Re:Harmful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479874)

yeah...bullets pass right through your body too.

Re:Harmful? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480414)

No, they take chunks of your body with them. That's not "right through".

Re:Harmful? (3, Interesting)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479610)

Redshift of 0.3 or so. Corresponds to a luminosity distance of almost 2 gigaparsecs. That's pretty far away.

Also, those gamma rays are all observed above the atmosphere. Interesting and totally off-topic aside, gamma ray bursters were only observed when we started putting military satellites in orbit to check on nuclear development. There were all these high-intensity sources around, leading to an investigation as to whether the Soviets had any new technology. Eventually it was determined that, no, they didn't and that these sources were extremely far away.

Re:Harmful? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480372)

Either that, or the Soviets managed to develop intergalactic weapon systems. ;)

Yeah, we probably would have noticed... probably...

Re:Harmful? (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480398)

Hey, they could've done. A lot of things were hidden behind the Iron Curtain and were lost in the chaos of the 90s...

Re:Harmful? (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480778)

No, I'm pretty sure they give you superpowers.

Re:Harmful? (1)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481332)

Worst case, they give you tumors, which we'll take care of.

Old News (1)

V50 (248015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479562)

This happened almost four billion years ago. :-/

Re:Old News (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479640)

Funny, but not really accurate. The concept of an absolute sense of time doesn't make sense when we're talking about objects so far away.

Re:Old News (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479836)

well, true, but i can certainly establish a meaningful measure. that thing's in our past light-cone, so it's not like it's separated by spacelike geodesics or anything. what they did in the article itself was to use the luminosity distance to say how far away it is. it's not a big jump from there to a time.

it's the same as saying the universe is 13.7 billion years old. it is, if you choose the right coordinate system and are careful enough about how you define it.

Re:Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479950)

Yes it does. Relativity breaks it under certain circumstances, but things being far away isn't one of them.

Re:Old News (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480088)

i interpreted him as meaning that i can swap to any coordinate system i like with any time coordinate i choose. of course, we're still connected to it on a null geodesic and can define meaningful measures of distance and time

Re:Old News (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480516)

For /. that's pretty close to real time.

This week in unnecessary censorship! (0)

indeterminator (1829904) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479606)

Massive black **** devours ****

Re: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36479672)

Pics or it didn't happen!

Question (2)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479686)

FTFA:

the star becomes elongated, first spreading out to form a "banana shape" before its inner edge - orbiting faster than the outer edge - pulls the star into a disc-shape that wraps itself around the hole.

At this point, can fusion even occur at the core of the star? If not, can it even be considered a star once it's matter has been wrapped around a black hole? At what point do we stop referring to it as a star and just consider it part of the black hole's accretion disk. I suppose it really doesn't make a difference what it's called though, since it won't be around for very long.

Re:Question (3, Funny)

guybrush3pwood (1579937) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479894)

FTFA:

the star becomes elongated, first spreading out to form a "banana shape" before its inner edge - orbiting faster than the outer edge - pulls the star into a disc-shape that wraps itself around the hole.

At this point, can fusion even occur at the core of the star? If not, can it even be considered a star once it's matter has been wrapped around a black hole? At what point do we stop referring to it as a star and just consider it part of the black hole's accretion disk. I suppose it really doesn't make a difference what it's called though, since it won't be around for very long.

When you eat chicken, when does it stop being chicken and begin being you? Mind-blowing, huh?

Re:Question (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480450)

If the fusion has stopped because the tidal force from the black hole is relieving the gravitational pressure between the star's atoms, it's no longer a star. It's now the gas-giant formerly known as the star, soon to be the accretion disk.

But you can still safely say "the black hole shredded the star", because nothing else could.

TFA (-1, Troll)

astroslashfan (2278614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479774)

TFA links to ad ridden blog. Here ad-free [aeonity.com] version

Re:TFA (1)

guybrush3pwood (1579937) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479930)

"No ads? Kwel!"

click...

"WTF!! My eyes!!!! rip.... them.... OFF!!"

How much of a star falls into a black hole? (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479814)

I'm still looking for diligent answer to my StackExchange question: http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/8294/how-much-of-a-star-falls-into-a-black-hole [stackexchange.com]

Arbitrary masses for the star and black hole should be fine, as you should be able to obtain a percentage of the star that is "DEVOURED!!11" and then create a line chart of the behaviors of stars and black holes with varying masses.

This seems important just to know, but also to make predictions for the Black Hole model.

Then again, I'm too dumb to answer my own question, so what do I know? :)

Re:How much of a star falls into a black hole? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480324)

I'd be suspect of any answer anyone gives. The event was too far away, and we didn't see the star in question beforehand, so even after we determine how much mass was blasted away in the jets or converted to gamma rays, we have no way of determining what percentage of the original amount that is, since we don't know the original amount. Any answer you get won't help make predictions or refine models, because they'll be obtained by using a model to try to determine the original mass based on how much we saw ejected and what the model predicts the percentage of that would be.

Re:How much of a star falls into a black hole? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480474)

According to TFA, all but 10%. Probably some small amount gets blown away by various processes that accelerate particles to near-light speed, but we're talking about a gravitational field capable of sucking down a star like a pan-dimensional soda straw. Anything with remaining rest mass is getting drained, eventually.

Re:How much of a star falls into a black hole? (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481662)

What a wonderful coincidence to look foolish. But note the quote "10% of its mass is turned into energy and radiated as X-rays" so 10% is X-rays, but doesn't speak to the rest of the spectrum.

Re:How much of a star falls into a black hole? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36505576)

The rest of the spectrum is, if not negligible, then somewhat less significant than the X-rays.

The distribution is not flat. It will have a big hump peaking in the x-rays and long tails above and below.

Re:How much of a star falls into a black hole? (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36607112)

Assuming... But measured against what timescale? Data. Data. Data.

perhaps (1)

jon.siebert1 (2146474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479860)

Swift can peer into the black hole and see where my left socks keep going.

You don't need SWIFT to answer that.... (2)

rts008 (812749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480598)

You apparently have a right-spin dryer.
These are known to reverse the polarity of left socks, converting them to right socks.
To correct this, you must manually spin the dryer the opposite direction exactly half the number of rotations.
This will reverse the polarity of half the socks back to left socks.

"beams" of energy (1)

Sir Realist (1391555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479888)

"sending a powerful beam of energy toward Earth."

Perhaps I'm being pedantic about word choice here - surely a first for /. - but a "beam" of energy implies to me that the energy is narrow and focused, and that description made me think that something came out aimed at Earth (though not, of course, by any deliberate agency.) The original article uses the word "burst" which seems far more appropriate for the kind of energy release its talking about.

Re:"beams" of energy (4, Informative)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479924)

generally black holes eject along beams from their poles. if one of those beams is pointing towards earth we get a big flash; if it's not we don't see as much.

it's much the same with pulsars. the standard model is that they're neutron stars emitting extremely focused radiation from their poles.

Re:"beams" of energy (1)

Sir Realist (1391555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480358)

Truth. And I was interested in whether this was the case here (and we were therefore extremely lucky to be able to observe the event) so I went back to the linked article. It too isn't terribly clear, but it uses the term "burst" fairly consistently, which would imply a non-directional release of energy, at least to me. Of course, that's also trusting someone to have gotten the semantics right, and I don't have much faith in modern science press, but I was too lazy to follow a second set of links to the original paper and see what the truth of the matter actually was... The abstract on the Science site - written by the original authors, but without the full paper attached, uses the word "outburst" but doesn't make any clear claims as to whether its directional or no. Make of that what you will.

Re:"beams" of energy (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480432)

The full paper's here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1104.3356 [arxiv.org]

I skimmed it earlier but I don't know if you'll get a better answer from the paper -- they're cautious and they're presenting their results and suggesting a few models (and pointing out that it's strongly identified with the centre of the host galaxy and most likely a star falling into the central black hole) but they're not doing any firm models.

I believe (though it's not my field so I might be very out-dated; I learned about these at university and that was ten years back... and so it was a model at least fifteen years old) even gamma ray bursts are most likely along collimated beams. We just see so many of them because there's a *massive* number of them.

Re:"beams" of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480042)

It's probably over-dramatized so that Space Nutters can claim that we desperately need to build a Ringworld, or whatever dozen material and technological impossibilities their religion demands this week.

Re:"beams" of energy (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480254)

I know that you like to post in any thread that involves space, using your 'Space Nutter' catchphrase. Although you're posting anonymously, you should be aware that it's painfully obvious that it's always the same person. You won't start a movement.

TFA (0)

geekstar (2278652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36479998)

TFA links to ad ridden blog. Here ad-free [thoughts.com] version.

Naaaa. not gonn happen like this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480236)

I personally dont believe that its possible for a star to be "elongated" and stretched..

Nuclear fusion certainly cannot continue with such stresses. The star must simply supernova before being sucked in..
People seem to depict the "fire" being spread across the event horizon... This simply will not happen.

I think..
The star goes supernova ( lots of gamma rays ) This then gets "spun" around causing them to end up "shining" from odd starting points.

Just my 2c...

Re:Naaaa. not gonn happen like this (4, Informative)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480384)

I'm sure the people spending years programming supercomputers to model supernovae will be fascinated to hear your ruminations. Not sure they'd agree with them, though...

Just a few thoughts in reply:

Not every star goes supernova. In fact, supernovae are really very rare. Most stars have a less violent end. Our own sun, for example, is never going to go supernova but is likely to become a planetary nebula and look quite beautiful to a civilisation a few tens of light years away.

Even if this star would be massive enough to go supernova, why would you assume that tidal stresses would cause a supernova? Or that you can trigger a supernova like that? Supernovae happen when the core of the star is basically made out of iron and it stops burning; the envelope then collapses under gravity and bounces, dramatically and catastrophically. A star that isn't at that stage isn't going to go supernova regardless of what stresses you put it through.

A supernova spits out a lot of gamma radiation, that's true. It also spits out a hell of a lot of other radiation -- and it's pretty characteristic, too. We know what the spectra of different types of supernovae look like and we know how the light-curves evolve over time. If this was a star going supernova we could tell, even if it were falling into a black hole at the same time.

And theoretically, it's possible for a star to become elongated and stretched. Consider a much less brutal example -- a red giant being orbited by a smaller orange star. There's something called a "Roche lobe" which is basically defines where the star's gravity dominates. That means that something within the Roche lobe of one star it's bound to that one, while if it's within the Roche lobe of the other it's bound to *that* one. But if the stars get close enough, there's a point where the Roche lobes meet -- and the two lobes elongate to touch one-another. The giant can then expand, as giants are wont to, and fill its Roche lobe. It takes on an elongated form (and a small stream of matter spirals into the other star). A slightly more dramatic version of this is when a star is orbiting a neutron star; given enough material flowing from the elongated companion onto the neutron star and you *do* trigger a supernova... but it's of the neutron star and not the companion.

Re:Naaaa. not gonn happen like this (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480468)

That wasn't meant to be as arsey as it sounds, by the way.

Re:Naaaa. not gonn happen like this (1)

Sardaukar86 (850333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36487118)

That wasn't meant to be as arsey as it sounds, by the way.

Not arsey at all, IMHO.

Thanks for a succinct and highly informative post. :-)

Re:Naaaa. not gonn happen like this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480520)

Hmm. Who should I believe? Legions of astronomers and astrophysicists with extensive education and years of experience or some AC on Slashdot who thinks he knows better?

Re:Naaaa. not gonn happen like this (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36480648)

The tidal force relieves the gravitational pressure on part of the star, putting out fusion right there.

Is the loss of fusion pressure going to allow that region to collapse on itself enough to super-nova? Or is the tidal force now great enough to keep it from collapsing to that density? Or was the fusion pressure itself causing fusion in a region that couldn't attain the density without the shockwave?

I think most of the star continues to fuse until it's so close it couldn't fuse if it tried. Anything that stops fusing just gets pulled farther away.

If it did go supernova, it would be extremely assymetric. It's no longer a collapsing sphere; it's an egg or ellipse with a part inside the stretched end(s) exploding next to a black hole with an active fusion reaction going on too. It should actually release a lot less energy than a supernova of a star of the same size, as it would happen more slowly and consume less of the total mass. It'd be a small supernova inside an active star.

There's probably some range of masses for which that happens. No way to rule it out from here. And then figure in the warping of spacetime from being that close to a black hole, which may be spinning, too.

Re:Naaaa. not gonn happen like this (3, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481116)

I personally dont believe that its possible for a star to be "elongated" and stretched..

If a star [hubblesite.org] can contort itself into odd shapes, what makes you think a black hole can't stretch one out of shape?

In culinary news this evening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36480674)

Galaxy News, in the What's For Dinner section, when asked about what does a star taste like, the answer from one black hoe was: Chicken.

big news of galactic proportions (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36481534)

Not really big news as in major political events but things like this I find fascinating. Extremely large objects doing something that covers a noticable portion of the galaxy (fortunately our solar system is quite far away or we'd all be toast, literally). It kind of makes you wonder of the vast amount of energy involved, how did it all began and where will it end. Meanwhile all you and me puny earthers bitch and moan of all kinds of crap that really don't impact much beyond the surface of this third rock in space.

Happily ever after (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36482176)

...and after that, the other stars knew their mothers meant business when they warned them not to venture too far from the nebula. And the black hole died of hunger. The end.

Massive Black Hole Devours Star (1)

TarPitt (217247) | more than 3 years ago | (#36482980)

So they've finally found a Black Hole Sun?

Oh no... (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36483496)

I'm assuming this this powerful beam of energy is an alien transmission which roughly translates to " You're next. "

I suspect what caused it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36483724)

was probably just the red matter.

What hole? Isn't this a joining of more mass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36483886)

Isn't a black "hole" just a monstrously big lump of mass? So it didn't "eat" anything, the star's mass just joined with its own, making an even bigger lump.

Black Hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36486322)

This is old news! Remember Icaris?

i'm so excited (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 3 years ago | (#36486502)

ULTIMATE vor (the universe episodes)

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