Elizabeth Howell, in Scientific American, described how a NASA satellite captured the last moments of life for a black hole. The star’s last bit of life was not a supernovae or novae.
The star was engulfed by the black hole. And it was all charted by the NASA satellite.
The black hole is a 3-million-solar-mass black hole. Really unprecedented according to the standard metric of mass in astronomy – the study of the celestial stuff like its objects and processes.
It is used to measure the mass – not weight – of stars and nebulae and galaxies, and clusters and groups of galaxies and so on. Therefore, as NASA scientists were quick to point out, it’s an enormous mass completely out of regular experience of physics for us.
And this black hole weighed 3 million of these units. There were “cosmic fireworks” that revealed a lot about the black hole and the star’s descent into death and darkness. Fireworks mean observables, which means evidence.
That evidence can be dissected and provide insight into stellar and black hole dynamics, at least in terms of the pull and absorption of the star into the black hole. It was about 290 million years ago.
The original observation was back in 2014, and various wavelengths of light were emitted, which is just energy – visible energy was emitted detectable by our technology: “optical, ultraviolet and X-ray light.”
“Fresh observations of this radiation by NASA’s Swift telescope have yielded more details about where these different wavelengths were generated in the event, which is called ASASSN-14li, a new study reports.”
Dheeraj Pasham, the lead author – the person who is the principle writer and researcher behind the article – and an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , said, “We discovered brightness changes in X-rays that occurred about a month after similar changes were observed in visible and UV light.”
This animation illustrates how debris from a tidally disrupted star collides with itself, creating shock waves that emit ultraviolet and optical light far from the black hole. According to Swift observations of ASASSN-14li, these clumps took about a month to fall back to the black hole, where they produced changes in the X-ray emission that correlated with the earlier UV and optical changes. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
The hypothesis of Pasham and others – or et al – is that the emissions, the ultraviolet and optical electromagnetic or light emissions, were far from the black hole. Matter was orbiting – in elliptical, not ovular or circular.
Imagine an egg, turn the egg right-side up so it looks like a balance with the fat end on the bottom and the thin end on the top. Now cut the top half of the egg off, make a copy of that top half, flip it 180 degrees around, then stick it to the bottom of the original top.
That’s basically an elliptical orbit – like an egg.
Planetary orbits are like that. So it means, for instance, that the distance from the Sun changes upon where the orbit of the Earth is.
So imagine stuff crashing around the outskirts of the orbit of the black hole and emit electromagnetic energy – optical and UV. The star that was to die, actually, had the same mass as our Sun, our star.
So the image can be a bit more graspable. The forces from the black hole overwhelmed those of the star – 3 million or so more. The star began to be ripped apart and was funnelled into the black hole.
It began to form a stream of stellar, or star, matter that began to be pulled into the black hole, which is a 3-dimensional hole.
“Next, the debris from this star formed a spinning accretion disk, with the matter compressing and heating before falling into the black hole,” Howell said. So why was some of this matter on the outskirts hurtling around at incredible speeds so that when they impacted one another they emitted optical and ultraviolet rays, electromagnetic rays?
Bradley, Cenko, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said, “Returning clumps of debris strike the incoming stream, which results in shock waves that emit visible and ultraviolet light…As these clumps fall down to the black hole, they also modulate the X-ray emission there.”
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.