Archive for August 8th, 2012

Sounds like the title of a science fiction story, doesn’t it? Except, in this case, it’s real:

As a doomed star spirals closer and closer to a black hole that’s about to gobble it up, it lets out periodic bursts of light that scientists liken to dying screams, scientists say.

The star is falling into a gigantic black hole in the center of a distant galaxy that lies 3.9 billion light-years away in the direction of the constellation Draco. As the remains of the star get pulled in, it releases blips of light about every 200 seconds, with occasional lags.

“You can think of it as hearing the star scream as it gets devoured, if you like,” Jon Miller, a University of Michigan astronomer, said in a statement. Miller was part of a team that detected the light blips using two orbiting X-ray telescopes: NASA and Japan’s Suzaku, and Europe’s XMM-Newton.


Though the dying star’s signal comes to us in the form of light, the researchers liken it to sound because it comes at a characteristic frequency that, if converted to sound, would make an ultra-low D-sharp.

Apparently the black hole is shredding the star (or “has shredded” given the time it take light to travel from there to here) and capturing its remains in a disk around itself, from which it “feeds.” A video at the site illustrates what they think is happening. You also see it in the artist’s conception, above, which shows one of the light bursts that’s been likened to a scream. “Awesome,” in it’s most neutral sense, comes to mind.

I hope there were no inhabited planets around that star before it encountered the black hole, or, if there were, the inhabitants were advanced enough to get the Hell our of there in time.  Talk about an apocalyptic ending.  What was it Hamlet said?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


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