Nothing can escape the enormous gravity of a black hole, not even light.
So astronomers were surprised to find a star that was “eaten” by a black hole, but survived.
The black hole didn’t swallow the red giant whole, but it did chew off its outer layers, and trapped it in a deadly embrace where the black hole continues to strip material off every few hours.
The whole drama played out in flashes of X-ray radiation captured by telescopes on Earth.
A study was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton spotted signs of a red giant star wandering too close to a supermassive black hole in a galaxy about 250 million light years from Earth.
Once the red giant was captured by the black hole’s gravity, the outer layers of the star containing hydrogen were stripped off and careened toward the black hole, leaving the core of the star (known as a white dwarf) behind.
The black hole, located in a galaxy called GSN 069, has a mass about 400,000 times that of the Sun, putting it on the small end of the scale for supermassive black holes.
Astronomers may have discovered a new kind of survival story: a star that had a brush with a giant black hole and lived to tell the tale through exclamations of X-rays.
“In my interpretation of the X-ray data the white dwarf survived, but it did not escape,” said Andrew King of the University of Leicester, who performed this study.
Read more: yahoo