Astronomers pick up “death cry” of a star being destroyed by a black hole

Aug 6, 2012
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Black holes are one of the most interesting and destructive forces in all of the universe. The gravity of a black hole is so strong that not even light can escape. However, by methods unknown to scientists today, the black hole blasts matter outwards perpendicular to its accretion disk at almost 90% of the speed of light along the black hole's spin axis.

A team of astronomers has announced that they have detected what they are calling the "death cry" of a star as it was devoured by a supermassive black hole. The black hole is called Swift J1644+57 and is 3.9 billion light-years away from Earth. The black hole is located in the constellation Draco and was discovered on March 28, 2011.

The black hole was discovered by NASA's Swift satellite as the satellite conducted its gamma ray search. The satellite discovered a gamma ray burst from the black hole that faded out gradually, nothing similar had been detected before. Close observation of the black hole revealed the faint, periodic signal that astronomer Jon Miller of the University of Michigan says corresponds in frequency to an ultralow D-sharp.

Scientists believe that the signals emanate from material that is about to be sucked into the black hole. According to the scientists, the star that was sucked in by the black hole would have been subjected to powerful tidal forces as it neared the black hole and was torn apart. Some of the gas would've been sucked into the black hole and formed an accretion disk of material around it. The innermost part of that disc would've been heated to a temperature of millions of degrees causing it to emit x-rays. The black hole was discovered as it consumed the star because one of the jets of matter emitted by the black hole was pointed straight at Earth. According to the scientists, the star being sucked in the black hole committed a "cry" every 3.5 minutes.

[via LA Times]


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