Thursday, May 03, 2012
New Evidence of Supermassive Black Hole Shredding a Star
Astronomers have gathered the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close.
Supermassive black holes, weighing millions to billions times more than the sun, lurk in the centers of most galaxies. These hefty monsters lay quietly until an unsuspecting victim, such as a star, wanders close enough to get ripped apart by their powerful gravitational clutches.
Astronomers have spotted these stellar homicides before, but this is the first time they can identify the victim. Using a slew of ground- and space-based telescopes, a team of astronomers led by Suvi Gezari of The Johns Hopkins University has identified the victim as a star rich in helium gas. The star resided in a galaxy 2.7 billion light-years away.
Her team’s results will appear in the May 3 online edition of the journal Nature.