A star that had a brush with a giant black hole and lived to tell the tale through exclamations of X-rays

by | Apr 27, 2020 | Black Holes (Stellar), Supermassive Black Holes | 0 comments

CREDIT: X-ray: NASA/CXO/CSIC-INTA/G.Miniutti et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss; Press Image, Caption, and Videos

Getting too close to your host can be dangerous, no matter who or what you are. From planets too close to their host star, we now turn to a star getting too close to its host supermassive black hole.

New X-Ray data from NASA’s Chandra and ESA’s XMM Newton X-Ray telescopes indicate a star in the galaxy GSN 069 got a bit too close, and is getting bites taken out every 9 hours or so, as it flies around this not entirely large supermassive black hole. At 400,000 Solar Masses, this system allows this star to get close enough to get bites removed without actually getting completely destroyed. In models by Andrew King of the University of Leicester, an everyday giant star wandered too close to the supermassive black hole for whatever reason, and had its atmosphere gravitationally torn away. Left behind is a white dwarf, a star that crams roughly a sun’s worth of material into a moon-sized volume of space. While the pull of gravity at the surface of this star is huge, it’s not enough to prevent the supermassive black hole from taking bites.  Once per orbit, the star gets within 15 event horizon radii of the supermassive black hole. This occurs like clockwork every 9 hours. At this stage, it’s unclear how this system may be evolving, but with a thrice daily bite being taken, I’m hoping we’ll be able to see this star’s behaviors evolve over human lifetimes.


Star Survives Close Call with a Black Hole (Chandra)



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