Astronomers have spied a star’s end as it is shredded by a black hole. Research shows that the star could have moved too close to the black hole getting sucked in by its huge gravitational forces.
The star’s final moments sent a flash of radiation hurtling towards Earth and the energy burst is still visible by telescope more than two-and-a-half months later according to a report in the journal Science.
NASA’s Swift mission constantly scans the skies for bursts of radiation, notifying astronomers when it locates potential flares. These bursts usually indicate the implosion of an ageing star, which produces a single, quick blast of energy.
But this event, first spotted on 28 March 2011 and designated Sw 1644+57, does not have the marks of an imploding sun.
What has intrigued researchers about this gamma ray burst is that it flared up four times over a period of four hours.
Astrophysicist Dr Andrew Levan from the University of Warwick and his colleagues suspected that they were looking at a very different sort of galactic event; one where a passing star got sucked into a black hole.