Imagine the excitement of astrophysicists at Hawaii’s Mount Haleakala telescope when they realized they were witnessing a star being eaten by a black hole. Not exactly the time you want to have to visit the bathroom or be the one to draw the short straw to go buy popcorn, that’s for sure.
This particular video is a computer simulation, but here’s basically what the team observed:
“When the star is ripped apart by the gravitational forces of the black hole, some part of the star’s remains falls into the black hole, while the rest is ejected at high speeds,” Gezari said. “We are seeing the glow from the stellar gas falling into the black hole over time. We’re also witnessing the spectral signature of the ejected gas, which we find to be mostly helium. It is like we are gathering evidence from a crime scene. Because there is very little hydrogen and mostly helium in the gas, we detect from the carnage that the slaughtered star had to have been the helium-rich core of a stripped star.
The reason this observation is such a big deal is that it’s the first to be witnessed from beginning to end and the first where scientists could identify the star being consumed.
Super cool space stuff.Author on Google+