Jan 11, 2022 - Science

Black hole eats a star

Artist's illustration of a black hole shredding a star. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Artist's illustration of a black hole shredding a star. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A team of scientists using archival data has spotted a black hole shredding a star in deep space.

Why it matters: This kind of stellar sleuthing can be used to find more of these types of events and piece together the details of how galaxies evolve through time.

Details: When a star gets too close to a black hole, the massive black hole can rip the star apart.

  • A new study accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal details one of these events seen by researchers on Earth in archival data gathered in the 1980s, '90s and 2000s by radio telescopes.
  • The object, named J1533+2727, was extremely bright in the late '80s through the mid-1990s but faded by 2017, according to the research team.
  • The authors of the study think that fading was caused by the star being gobbled up by the black hole in what's known as a "tidal disruption event."

The big picture: "An unprecedented amount of radio observations are now becoming available, positioning us to discover many more sources like this one," co-author of the study Hannah Dykaar of the University of Toronto said in a statement.

  • "Interestingly, neither of the radio-discovered candidates were found in the type of galaxy most popular for TDEs. Finding more of these radio TDEs could help us to illuminate ongoing mysteries about what types of galaxies they occur in and just how many there are in the universe."
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