Red giant pulled in and consumed by huge black hole
By Kim Se-jeong
On May 2, NASA announced that it has seen a black hole feeding on a star.
The joint team of researchers, led by Suvi Gezari of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., announced they caught sight of a red giant star being pulled into a black hole, millions of times larger than the Sun. The black hole in question is located in a galaxy 2.7 billion light years (distance travelled by light in one year) away from Earth.
Researchers believe the red giant, a star in the last stage of stellar evolution, was about 5 billion-years-old when it was consumed. According to the Daily Mail, scientists think the black hole first consumed the red giant’s helium outer shell then sucked in the star’s core when it wandered too close during its elliptical orbit. The massive black hole caught and pulled in the star with its enormous gravity.
A flare was caused by the star’s helium-rich nucleus as it was destroyed by the black hole. Scientists observed the flare as it peaked in brightness in July then faded over the course of a year.
There have been several sightings of the aftermath of a star’s destruction by a black hole. However, this is the first time the process of destruction was sighted.
This event was discovered by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) in Hawaii, June 2010. The research results were first introduced in the scientific journal, Nature, May 2.
A black hole also exists in our galaxy, approximately 30,000 light years away from Earth. Researchers estimate that this black hole is about 4.6 million times heavier than the Sun.