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Black Hole Swallows Up a Star

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Posted on Aug 25, 2011
Youtube Still / NASA

Scientists say that, for the first time, they have witnessed a black hole swallowing a distant star.

The event took place about 3.9 billion years ago in a distant galaxy in the constellation Draco. Radiation from the blast just reached Earth in March, its “intense” and “unusual high-energy flares” alerting scientists that something big was happening.

Watch the power of the universe in the animation below, depicting what scientists saw when the black hole “shredded” and “consumed” the star. —BF

Read more at the International Business Times.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, August 28, 2011 at 10:57 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael,

Thank you so much. I have to admit as I was making
myself a cup of Camomille tea I cackled with glee. If
I knew anyone’s e-mail address at NASA—I believe,
the creators of the animation—I would send them an
e-mail saying you liked my poem better than their
rendering. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! 

I do not know how long that animation took. I’m sure
the actual thinking and computations took quite a
while, but I don’t have any details about that
particular rendering. 

What I do know is that the animations shown at this link (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/08/science-simulation-videos/?pid=1742)
are the result of supercomputers—a
building whose entire electrical and cooling
infrastructure is dedicated to running racks and
racks of high-end servers.

If you look at the simulation, it’s
a bit like, “humphf, well, that’s not much.”  But if
you read the text you realize the guys are
calculating how a 36-million-light-year-wide swath of
the universe looked 1.9 billion years ago.

In sum: That’s a lot of fucking number crunching
going on there. Imagine converting every movie
ever made since 1920 into a digital format and
you get an idea of the astronomical computer
processing going on.

These guys literally dedicate their entire lives to
doing this type of stuff, so, time-wise, it’s a
lifelong endeavor.  As far as computer processing
goes, it’s your house and your neighbor’s house
emptied of everything except server racks,
spending a week or two crunching the numbers.

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By Inherit The Wind, August 28, 2011 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

JDmysticDJ

It’s clear you are no Einstein. 
That is true on so many levels…..

The bending of light by gravity was shown experimentally for the first time during the total solar eclipse of 1919:

“The total eclipse of 29th May 1919 gave scientists the chance to test the theory for the first time. Eddington travelled to Príncipe to observe the eclipse and measure the apparent locations of stars near the Sun. Heavy clouds parted minutes before the eclipse and, with the Sun almost directly in front of them, the stars appeared to be shifted from the positions that Eddington had recorded in Oxford 4 months earlier - direct evidence that our nearest star shapes the space around it.”—physorg.com

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, August 28, 2011 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

This event is much like my income being sucked up by the government.

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By wtfook, August 27, 2011 at 10:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@JDmysticDJ

It’s funny that you call yourself a ‘skeptic’. A
few hours spent on wikipedia, or better yet in an
introductory physics textbook, would remedy this
situation.

If I err in anything I write below, I trust that
others who are better informed will correct me.

“Theoretically, black holes are so dense that the
gravitational pull from the dense center is so
powerful that light can not escape the
gravitational pull, thus black holes are not
visible.”
A black hole emits a small amount of light due to
quantum mechanical effects (Hawking radiation).
Otherwise, we must rely on indirect observation -
we can detect the radiation emitted by matter
surrounding the black hole (heated matter near the
black hole can emit x-rays) or the black hole’s
gravitational effects on light (gravitational
lensing).

“Science has declared that reaching the speed of
light would require infinite mass, but light is not
infinite mass because light has no mass, and
furthermore dark matter has been identified because
of its ability to attract light because of its
gravitational pull.”
Special relativity establishes that no massive
particle can travel at light speed. Massless
particles like photons will always travel at
lightspeed.

“If light has no mass, gravity would have no affect
on light. So how is it that dark matter has been
identified by its gravitational pull on light;
light, which science has said has no mass, making
light not subject to Newtonian Laws of gravity? I’m
confused. Whoever said that ignorance is bliss got
it wrong.”
General relativity, our current best theory of
gravity, correctly predicts the gravitational
bending of light (among other strange phenomena).
Newtonian gravity does not make good predictions
with regards to light and gravity.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, August 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment

re: D.R. Zing, March 27, 2010, Genesis of a Quasar (as described by Dr. Darkness)

That was worth reading. Dont get me wrong, but the cartoon doesnt do as much for me as the poetry.

I would also prefer some actual radiographs alongside actual photograph, because the cartoon doesnt give me a time frame, How long did this process as depicted in the cartoon take?

If I wasnt lazy and cranky, i would look it up myself.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, August 26, 2011 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

SarcastiCanuck.  Thank you. Thank you very much. Of
course Dr. Darkness has not commented on my rendition
of our conversation. There were more than a few beers and
martinis involved in the discussion and I’m not
exactly sure how accurate my recollection is.

***

JDmysticDJ
I happily agree with your observation that ignorance
is not bliss. Anyone who has ever carried an old
smiling dog into the vet and walked out sobbing knows
that truth. 

I cannot answer all your questions. I wish I could. 
But I can’t. I’m not an astrophysicist. I just happen
to be friends with one. 

I do know a little bit about computers and I’ll
therefore hazard an explanation at the following: “So
what is it that the scientists saw, a computer
simulation based on radiated energy?”  Not exactly.

Think of your computer screen. It’s not showing you
anything in the sense that it’s not making up
anything; it’s being told what to display.  It’s
pulling data from a database and rendering
information on the screen.  Behind all that are the
minds of many software engineers who know how to
retrieve the data and provide instructions to your
computer to display the information in a form that
your eyes and brain can decipher.

What astrophysicists and other scientists are “seeing”
is many different forms of light, along with x-rays,
microwaves and many other things that various
telescopes and devices can detect. They then decipher
the data—not in a way exactly like you and I would
do it by thinking and imagining, though that
certainly is part of it—they decipher the data
using what they know about mathematics, chemistry,
physics, etc. 

Back to your original question. “So what is it that
the scientists saw, a computer simulation based on
radiated energy?”  They saw light; they created the
computer simulation to help explain to us mere
mortals what their mathematics, chemistry and
physics, along with the telescopes and devices tell
them is the source of the light.

The mathematics used to confirm that the simulation
is accurate takes a lifetime and usually cannot be
done by someone who does not have a PhD in some sort
of hard science or mathematics.

Likewise, the computer programs that scientists write
to verify their mathematics and to verify that
whatever simulation they create is not just an act of
imagination but confirmed to the best of their
knowledge as accurate can only be written by a
handful of people in the world.

Long and short: The simulation didn’t show them
squat. They wrote the simulation to confirm their
math and observations. 

I cannot attempt to answer your other questions.  I
do not know.  And, as to what I said above, I’m sure
there are many scientists out there who could rip it
to pieces. I would urge them to do so.

It will be a great day when scientists are
broadcasting on Sunday mornings.

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JDmysticDJ's avatar

By JDmysticDJ, August 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

I’m a skeptic.

Theoretically, black holes are so dense that the gravitational pull from the dense center is so powerful that light can not escape the gravitational pull, thus black holes are not visible. So what is it that the scientists saw, a computer simulation based on radiated energy; the unexplained death of a star? Or just an unexplained anomalous energy burst?

“Extrapolation of extrapolations, every thing is extrapolation [sic].”

Science has declared that reaching the speed of light would require infinite mass, but light is not infinite mass because light has no mass, and furthermore dark matter has been identified because of its ability to attract light because of its gravitational pull. If light has no mass, gravity would have no affect on light. So how is it that dark matter has been identified by its gravitational pull on light; light, which science has said has no mass, making light not subject to Newtonian Laws of gravity? I’m confused. Whoever said that ignorance is bliss got it wrong.

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By SarcastiCanuck, August 26, 2011 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Are there any Creative Design people out there to describe what is happening in thier vernacular?I’d love to hear it….Zing,fantastic description by Dr.Darkness.Docs got the juice…

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A Bird in the Hand's avatar

By A Bird in the Hand, August 26, 2011 at 11:49 am Link to this comment

Pretty amazing stuff..They can’t take the stars away from us..

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Napolean DoneHisPart's avatar

By Napolean DoneHisPart, August 26, 2011 at 8:23 am Link to this comment

I now understand why folks would rather look to the stars ( not the ones produced in HollyWeird ) than look at the ills of man’s fate.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, August 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm Link to this comment

some twelve billion years ago
give or take few
a star went supernova

its core
which had been about the size of the earth
collapsed to roughly ten kilometers in width

and what was left
of this beast
began to spin
like an ice skater
who first spins wide
then squats and tucks

its electromagnetic field
which in better days
was dispersed all around
was reigned in
like a collapsing umbrella
and became a thin rod
shooting up from the top of the supernova
and shooting down below it
for light years

there were many stars in the neighborhood
because our universe was young
and they were all attracted to the gravity
of this small spinning beast
and about once a year
one of the stars
would get pulled in
not as you would think
like a glass falling to the floor
but in a slow stellar dance

like pulling yarn from a spool
flaming strands of a star would unravel
in an astronomical nuclear fire
and be pulled past the event horizon
where they would be seen no more

year after year
this went on
deep in the universe:
stars orbiting
slowly being pulled apart
in a fiery display

until finally
with no more stars to devour
the black hole resigned itself
to twirling a galaxy
through the dark matter

if you’ve ever looked into the night sky
and seen a quasar—

that’s what you’re seeing
the flickering lights
of a star’s last dance


D.R. Zing, March 27, 2010, Genesis of a Quasar (as
described by Dr. Darkness)

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By GW=MCHammered, August 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So much going on around us. Yet humans would rather
focus on making someone else swallow their shit.

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