Scientists watch a black hole devour a star

Back when single-celled organisms ruled Earth, a gigantic black hole lurking quietly at the center of a distant galaxy dismantled and devoured a star.

On Wednesday, astronomers reported that they watched the whole thing unfold over a period of 15 months starting in 2010, the first time such an event had been witnessed in great detail from start to finish.

“The star got so close that it was ripped apart by the gravitational force of the black hole,” said Johns Hopkins University astronomer Suvi Gezari, lead author of a paper about the observations that was published online by the journal Nature.

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Veering close to the black hole — about the same distance as Mercury lies from the sun — the gaseous star was stretched out and torn asunder by the black hole’s intense gravity.

“It turned into this really thin piece of spaghetti,” Gezari said.

About 76 days after the star was ripped apart, the black hole began devouring its remains, taking at least a year to finish off the meal.

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Astronomers call these star-obliterating events tidal disruptions. The process is similar to….keep readingGiant black hole is seen gobbling up a star