Science

Black Hole Grows Massive After Snacking On A Star For A Decade

By Donna Bellevue , Feb 08, 2017 01:31 AM EST
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A super massive black hole has been discovered and it's so hungry that it has been eating star for more than 10 years. Astronomers say that it has been feasting on the star ten times longer than any stellar meal detected before. The feast has been going on so long that scientists are puzzled how it's been sustained without defying the laws of physics.

With NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift satellite as well as ESA’s XMM-Newton, researchers were able to spot the gigantic empty space. This record-breaking discovery is nicknamed XJ1500+0154, located at the core of a galaxy about 1.8 billion light-years away. The satellites stumbled across the incredibly bright flare emitted by XJ1500+0154 back in 2005.

According to NASA, when objects like stars get too close to black holes, the intense gravity of it can rip the star apart in what’s called a tidal disruption event (TDE). While some of the remains from the star is catapulted through space, parts of it are pulled back and ingested by the black hole, where it increases in temperature and emits an X-ray flare, the USA Today reports.

However, most TDEs last very short, which is why the new interstellar observation is so unique and surprising. Lead researcher Dachen Lin comments on the spectacular and unusually prolonged death of the star. "Dozens of tidal disruption events have been detected since the 1990s, but none that remained bright for nearly as long as this one," Lin says.

In fact, the star has been fed on for so long that it's pushing the limits of physics, consistently surpassing something called the Eddinton Limit which is the maximum brightness a star can achieve, the Science Alert reports. If a star is pushing out enough radiation to get this bright, then gravity should have a problem holding it together. It is for that reason that it's difficult to understand how supermassive black holes at the center of many galaxies, including our Milky Way, grew as big as they are.

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