Omnivorous Black Holes Like This One Are Pretty Much the Sharks of Space

Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 11:50 in Astronomy & Space

Black Hole Devouring Star NASA, S. Gezari (JHU), and J. Guillochon (UC Santa Cruz) Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Johns Hopkins University report seeing a phenomenon we've all imagined: a black hole devouring a star. A black hole at the center of a galaxy about 2.7 billion light-years away, one about the same size as the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way, was observed sucking the life out of a star. Interestingly, the scientists who observed the black hole's meal compared it to a shark: neither, says Ryan Chornock of Harvard-Smithsonian, are unstoppable eating machines. Black holes actually lie dormant for long periods of time, until a space object passes a little too close--and then it pounces, which can set off a feeding frenzy. This particular star, probably a red giant, had already once passed too close to the black hole, losing...

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