Black hole captured ripping star apart

2011-08-25 09:28

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Paris - A black hole described as a "cosmic monster" lurking at the heart of a galaxy has been recorded as it tore apart a luckless star, astronomers reported.

On March 25, Nasa's Swift orbital telescope captured a surge of X-rays from deep space, disgorged by what was clearly an immensely powerful source.

Closer observation revealed a "supermassive" black hole with a mass a million times that of the Sun and was reported in Nature on Wednesday.

The X-ray flare was a "relativistic outflow", or a jet of high-energy matter that flowed from the star as it was pulled apart by the black hole's gravitational pull and hauled toward its maw.

The jet, called Swift J164449.3+573451, moved at 99.5% of the speed of light.

"Supermassive" black holes are commonly found at the centre of galaxies. The newly discovered black hole is about the size of its counterpart in our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Even so, they are relative tiddlers, for some "supermassive" specimens have been measured at a mass of more than a billion Suns.

Read more on:    astronomy
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