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A Massive Black Hole Swallows Up A Sun-Like Star?

First Posted: Dec 13, 2016 04:12 AM EST
ASASSN-15lh
A massive black hole tearing apart a wandering Sun-like star.
(Photo : European Southern Observatory/YouTube Screenshot)

In 2015, scientists recorded the brightest supernova explosion ever seen. Now, they found out that it was not a supernova but a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole tearing apart a Sun-like star.

Brightest Supernova

First detected by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae or ASASSN, the celestial phenomenon dubbed as ASASSN-15lh shows the brightest supernova ever. It was even categorized as a superluminous supernova wherein an extremely large star explodes at the end of its life. It was, in fact, 20 times brighter than the total light output of the Milky Way.

However, since it is unusually brighter than any other supernova, some scientists were suspicious of what the event really was.

Now, an international team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Dark Cosmology Centre and Israel further observed the distant galaxy, which is about 4 billion lightyears away from Earth. They found a new explanation for this stunning yet bizarre event.

"We observed the source for 10 months following the event and have concluded that the explanation is unlikely to lie with an extraordinarily bright supernova. Our results indicate that the event was probably caused by a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole as it destroyed a low-mass star," Giorgos Leloudas, one of the scientists who observed the cosmic event, said as reported by Phys.org.

A Star Wandering Too Close To A Spinning Black Hole

The massive gravitational forces of the black hole resulted in the collapse of the massive star. This cosmic event is called tidal disruption, a rare event only observed about 10 times.

During a tidal disruption, the star was "spaghettified" and ripped apart. In the process, the shock from the striking debris and the heat created by the mass lead to a strong burst of light. As a result, it may look like an extremely bright supernova explosion.

The researchers based their conclusion on observations made with the Very Large Telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory, the New Technology Telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory, and the Hubble Space Telescope, Gizmodo reports.

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