Giant black hole caught devouring star

X-ray data from NASA's Chandra, the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, and the German Roengtensatellite (ROSAT) X-ray observatories provide direct evidence for the catastrophic destruction of a star that wandered too close to a super-massive black hole.

A giant black hole in a galaxy a billion light years away has been caught in the act of butchering a star - the first time this has been seen, according to astronomers. It means that black holes all over the Universe must be eating stars, and that may be the main way they grow.

A powerful flare of X-rays was the star's final scream. The flare, from the center of a galaxy called RXJ 1242-1119, was thousands of times as bright as all the stars in the galaxy put together.

Its beginnings were seen back in 1992, when the ROSAT observatory picked up emission as strong as that from many active galaxies. Active galaxies contain a giant black hole feeding off a constant gas supply, and usually have a bright blue pinpoint in the center.

"Yet in visible light, RXJ 1242-1119 is just a normal, inconspicuous galaxy," says Stefanie Komossa of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

Murder scene 

    Click Here to see animation of
Star Ripped Apart by Giant Black Hole

This animation shows a yellow star that travels too close to a giant black hole in the center of the galaxy RX J1242-11. As it nears, the star is stretched by tidal forces from the black hole and is quickly torn apart. Most of the yellow gaseous debris from the star escapes the black hole in parabolic orbits. However, a small amount of material is captured by the black hole and then forms a rotating disk of gas. X-rays are emitted as the gas in the disk is heated (as shown by the blue color) and is gradually swallowed by the black hole, eventually emptying the disk.
[Run Time: 0:43] Source:

Komossa suspected that these X-rays might be a brief flare from a dying star, rather than constant emission, but she needed follow-up observations to be sure. In 2001, Komossa, Gunter Hasinger and their team looked at RXJ 1242-1119 again with two more space-based telescopes.

The Chandra observatory showed that the flare has almost subsided. Komossa's group also used XMM-Newton to show that the X-ray energies have just the broad spread expected when gas is being consumed by a black hole.

Komossa and her group are now able to reconstruct the murder scene. A star about the size of our Sun ventures too close to the black hole. "It then feels enormous tidal forces exerted by the black hole, which finally rip apart the whole star," she says.

Some of the debris circles the black hole for a while, heating up so much that it shines brilliantly in X-rays, before falling below the event horizon from beyond which no light can escape. But the black hole is a very messy eater - only a few per cent of the star actually goes in. The rest gets flung outwards again by the force of the flare.

Light snack 

This discovery tells us a lot about how black holes grow, according to Kimberly Weaver of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Here, for the first time, we see that a whole star can be ripped apart."

This means, she says, that it is not only active galaxies in which black holes are consuming matter. While those black holes are eating continuously, the new discovery shows that those in other galaxies can snack on stars in order to grow.

It must happen in our own galaxy too. "Here we see much milder flares. They could be something the size of a comet being swallowed," says Weaver.

But roughly once in 10,000 years, our own galaxy's giant black hole will eat a star, says Komossa: "Then the centre of our Milky Way would flare up to become about 100 billion times brighter than it is now."


Source: NewScientist

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  8 Comments   Comment

  1. sanim sambo from nigeria

    1. since we are a muslim, we have shortcut to the long jouney of exploiting the wonders of Allah's creation. Believe in what He and His messenger tells us and we shall have no cause to stand against or for any article that explain the ever changing minute knowledge of understanding of the universe.

    2."truely, those that fear Allah most, are those who have Knowledge" fitr 35-28.

    Here, Knowledge refers to the spiritual knowledge of knowing Allah and His might, not just some kind of conjecture mould into theories, and became widely accepted because of ignorance. Remember the simple model of Atom was misconceived for centuries. who knows whether the present most acceptable model is not really exactly as we are thinking, and yet several experiments are pointing to it validity?

  2. Gabieb Achmat from New Zealand

    all i can and will say is "ALLAHU-AKBAR"


  3. Neutral Guy from Singapore

    Qoute by Harsha:


    Ever wonder on the days of kiamat, how will it like?

    I have been taught before that on the day of kiamat, earth will be flatten, where there shall be no more mountain, sea and sky. So when you re-think again on how that can happen , try to figure out the purpose of black hole. Take the galaxy RXJ 1242-1119 as an example. Humans have discover that when stars and galaxies are caught by the ultra strong magnetic field of the black hole, it will collapse and all matters will travel in a ultra fast micro singular from the entry point of the black hole to the other end, which is only God Almighty knows where the black hole will end, for he is the architect and the designer of our ultra vast universe. So I would say that galaxy RXJ 1242-1119 has experience their own kiamat.

    And have you ever wonder on the final days before kiamat begin where 1 of the major sign will be the Sun will rise from the west. If the scientific fact have been proven/ discover, I would say this phenomena can happen if earth has cross over to a path where there are stronger gravitional pull, let say from other bigger planet which is orbiting the sun in the reverse direction than Earth. Can this happen, only Allah SWT know..... for we are given the knowledge from Him to explain and think but not to serve as a final conclusion.

  4. Nuraini from Malaysia

    I saw this on the Discovery Channel - it was fascinating. Not much is known about black holes - one could be on its way to eat us, and we do not know. I watched the simulation of how a star/planets is sucked into the hole, and it reminded me of the qiamat - because the sky would be literally unrolled, and everything would collapse, and if the earth is sucked up, the lava will erupt etc. There was another documentary about time travel, where according to time/space theory, it is possible to travel through time if you are accelerated fast enough relative to everything around you - but this is only physically possible just around the edge of a black hole - do you think that maybe that is what is meant when we see our past rewind to creation on the final day, because qiamat is the universe swallowed by a black hole? all pure speculation, of course, but science has actually shown how the things we once believed on faith alone, could actually be proven physically - maybe it won't happen exactly that way, but end-of-the-world scenario, and time reversal are not considered impossible or preposterous any more. i am very grateful that God has allowed us some knowledge to understand how He may someday claim us all.

  5. Hassan from Saudi Arabia

    17:85 They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)"

  6. Najib Azhar from USA

    The awesome majesty and power of such spectacular Allah's signs should remind us of our insignificance. There is no power but Allah, and whatever He grants any of us should not cause us to feel any sense of power - individual or nation. Even the power of such common natural events such as earthquakes, tornadoes, storms and lightnings belittle any "man-made" (actually Allah-granted) technology.

  7. Harsha from India

    Well,what if the black hole is referred to in the Holy Quran as the gate to Hell? I believe there are verses that describe Hell & which can be apt to the description of a Black Hole.For instance, the great gravitational force by which a black hole eats up matter, energy & gases?

  8. Yahya Bergum from USA

    What if anything might "Extraterrestrial Physics" have to do with our mission of galactic conquest? Just kidding! Seriously, it is very nice to see articles on science (extraterrestrial and otherwise) continue to be presented at IslamiCity.

    Also, if my beloved, fellow "Quranic literalists" would care to have a look at Quran 55:33, perhaps they would see space exploration in a new light -- insha'Allah (God willing). The way I read that particular verse, Allah (i.e., God) does not appear to be making a suggestion -- but please see what you think about it. What other than Allah (i.e., God) are we afraid of?

    Assalamu alaikum (peace be unto you).