Star Survives Close Call With A Black Hole

©NASA

GSN 069

Astronomers may have discovered a new kind of survival story: a star that had a brush with a giant black hole and lived to tell the tale through exclamations of X-rays.

Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton uncovered the account that began with a red giant star wandering too close to a supermassive black hole in a galaxy about 250 million light years from Earth. The black hole, located in a galaxy called GSN 069, has a mass about 400,000 times that of the Sun, putting it on the small end of the scale for supermassive black holes.

Once the red giant was captured by the black hole's gravity, the outer layers of the star containing hydrogen were stripped off and careened toward the black hole, leaving the core of the star - known as a white dwarf - behind.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/CSIC-INTA/G.Miniutti et al.; Optical: DSS) Larger image

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