Australian Scientists Just Spotted A Giant Black Hole Ripping Apart A Star

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Australian scientists are among an international team of astronomers who have spotted what can only be described as a massive, spinning black hole tearing apart a star.

Metal.

A bright flare was spotted by an automated telescope in Chile last year, and astronomers originally thought what they were seeing was a supernova explosion. Not just any ordinary supernova explosion, but the brightest ever seen.

But looking at it more closely, ASASSN-15lh (that's what this specific "event" is called) appears to be a star disintegrating under the gravity of a black hole. It's what is known as a "tidal disruption event", and while they have been spotted before, this definitely ranks as the brightest.

Giorgos Leloudas and colleagues observed the event for ten months, and used additional data gathered from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission and ground-based telescopes.

Based on this data, they argue the flare originated from the very centre of a galaxy — where one would expect a black hole to reside, apparently. They also say the host galaxy's high mass and lack of current star-forming activity is not consistent with a supernova explanation.

[Nature]

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