A University of Alabama researcher and his team believe they’ve been able to observe a black hole destroying a star in a galaxy far, far away. Peter Maksym led the study of data from NASA’s Chandra telescope that observed a large x-ray flare.
Peter Maksym: “You have this tiny little galaxy that appears to have had a really huge x-ray flare. This is really solid evidence that it’s got a massive black hole of some sort.”
Maksym says the flare was probably created when a star got too close to the black hole and was destroyed.
Maksym: “The debris from one of these tidal disruption events slingshots around the black hole, comes back, and basically the star crashes into itself. Material gets shocked. It gets super-heated. It gets so hot that it gives off x-rays. These can be very bright. You can see them from hundreds of millions of light years away and they can last for over a year.”
This particular event was observed in the galaxy cluster Abell 1795. It’s about 800 million light years away. The paper is published in the November 2013 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Maksym says another paper to help confirm the data is still in the peer-review process.