Black hole caught in act of swallowing a star – Technology & science – Space – Space.com – msnbc.com

For the first time, a black hole has been caught in the act of tearing apart and swallowing a star that got too close.

Scientists, who until now had witnessed only the aftermath of such events, say the observation is shedding light on “relativistic jets,” bursts of matter that shoot out at nearly the speed of light.

At the centers of virtually all large galaxies are supermassive black holes. These monsters, which are millions to billions of times the mass of the sun, can rip apart passers-by, gravitationally pulling at stars in gigantic versions of how our moon tugs on Earth’s oceans to generate tides.

Evidence for this destruction may come in the form of a bright flare of ultraviolet, gamma and X-rays, a flare that can theoretically last for years as the star is gradually consumed. Although scientists have observed the aftermath of such “tidal disruption” events several times, they had never seen the onset of one.

“Now we’ve seen the start of this event for the first time,” study co-author David Burrows, an astrophysicist at Pennsylvania State University, told Space.com.

via Black hole caught in act of swallowing a star – Technology & science – Space – Space.com – msnbc.com.

Very cool that this has FINALLY been observed (hard to believe black holes were little more than a theory when I was in elementary school…). There’s a video if you click on the link to the original article as well. Hopefully the data gathered in this observation will lead to some interesting new leads in physics…

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