JAXA, NASA Detect Supermassive Black Hole Destroying Star In Different Galaxy
By Srinivas Laxman | Featured Research
August 27, 2011
Two international teams have published separate letters in Nature on their breaking discovery of a supermassive black hole swallowing a star in a galaxy 3.9 billion light years away.
AsianScientist (Aug. 27, 2011) – Two international groups of astronomers, including members from Japan, the US, Germany, Taiwan, and South Korea, have published separate letters in Nature this Wednesday on their breaking discovery of a black hole swallowing a star in a galaxy 3.9 billion light years away.
The discovery was made using the Japanese instrument, Monitor All Sky X Ray Image (Maxi), mounted on the Japanese experimental module, Kibo, at the International Space Station (ISS) in coordination with a NASA satellite, called Swift.
The Swift team, led by lead author Prof. David Burrows of Penn State University, had detected a strong gamma ray burst (GRB) coming from an object located in the Draco constellation on March 28, 2011. The object was named Swift J164449.3+573451.
Alerted by the Swift team, the Maxi group in Japan reviewed the Maxi data of this object and found that it had detected X-rays from Swift J164449.3+573451 several hours prior to Swift’s discovery. The Japanese team also concluded that there had been no previous X-ray emissions before the activity.
A detailed analysis of Maxi and Swift observations revealed that the increase in brightness in the X-ray band by more than 10,000-fold since 1990, and by more than 100-fold since early 2010, came from a supermassive black hole located in the center of a galaxy destroying a star that came too close.
According to JAXA, this was the first time that a nucleus with no X-ray emission had ever suddenly started such activity. The strong X-ray and rapid variation indicated that the X-ray came from a jet.
Although there have been some other observations to date, namely considered to be tidal disruption and a black hole swallowing a star, they were not as violent as seen this time, and the beginning had not previously been observed.
A companion paper by Zauderer B.A. et al. also comes to similar conclusions on the basis of radio observations. They estimate the mass of the black hole at around 106 solar masses.
The two letters can be found at: