Science/Medicine
4:51 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Science: Black hole eats star, sparks gamma rays

Here's your Friday "Science is awesome" moment, care of the Washington Post.

The story is about a black hole eating a star like our sun and shooting out gamma rays.

Oh...and it only happens once every 100 million years.

Read on...

A monster black hole devoured a Sun-like star, producing a long-lasting gamma ray flash that probably won’t be seen on earth for another hundred million years, astronomers said Thursday.

NASA’s Swift spacecraft first observed the gamma-ray emission in March through a signal from its Burst Alert Telescope. Universe Today called the flash “the death scream” of the star being consumed by a black hole.

That death scream lasted for months and is still going on now, Reuters reported. Gamma ray bursts usually flare up and end in a matter of seconds or milliseconds.

The star was likely destroyed because it wandered too close to its galaxy’s central black hole, located in the constellation Draco an incredible 4 billion light years away. Astronomers say the incident is particularly unusual because this black hole was was sitting quietly, not eating much, when the star about the size of our Sun came into range.

“Here, you have a black hole sitting quiescently, not gobbling up matter, and all of a sudden something sets it off,”  Joshua Bloom, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley, said in a statement.

Bloom said this kind of event happens once in 100 million years in any given galaxy.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom