Black hole seen to swallow star

Scientists have watched for the first time as a star was ripped to shreds by a black hole. They caught the distant sun’s cosmic scream as the galactic cannibal destroyed it and swallowed it up.

The savage act was spotted by a Nasa satellite, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer. Excited astronomers have never before watched the whole process of a black hole eating up a star.

The cosmic feast – shown in the Nasa artist’s impression – was witnessed in a galaxy four billion light-years away from the Earth in the constellation of Boötes.

The satellite recorded a huge ultraviolet flare as the lurking black hole, believed to be tens of millions of times more massive than our sun, seized the passing star.

It was torn to pieces by the incredible gravitational forces. Material then swirled around like water in a plughole before plunging into the black hole, never to be seen again.

Dr Suvi Gezari, of the California Institute of Technology, will report on the incredible event in next week’s issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. He said: “This type of event is very rare, so we are lucky to study the entire process from beginning to end.”

Co-author Dr Christopher Martin said: “This will help us greatly in weighing black holes in the universe, and in understanding how they feed and grow in their host galaxies as the universe evolves.”

• For more space reading, plus other bargains, check out the Skymania store!

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

Get free Skymania news updates by email

Sign up for alerts to our latest reports. No spam ever - we promise!


Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *