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Black Holes Chew Up Wayward Stars Like Messy Toddlers–Taking a Few Bites Before Flinging Leftovers Across the Galaxy

Black Holes Chew Up Wayward Stars Like Messy Toddlers–Taking a Few Bites Before Flinging Leftovers Across the Galaxy

Remnants of a wayward star, circling around a black hole – SWNS

A research team that analyzed black holes determined they are a bit like a messy toddlers when they swallow up wayward stars—taking a few bites before flinging the leftovers across the galaxy.

The protracted and violent meals were unveiled in remarkable detail using computer simulations, because black holes are invisible—and their gravity is so strong that even light can’t escape.

“We obviously cannot observe black holes directly because they don’t emit light,” said lead author Fulya Kıroglu, a PhD student at Northwestern University in Illinois. “Instead, we have to look at the interactions between black holes and their environments.”

“We found that stars undergo multiple passages before being ejected. After each passage, they lose more mass, causing a flair of light as it’s ripped apart. Each flare is brighter than the last, creating a signature that might help astronomers find them.”

Finding black holes is important because they may be the source of a mysterious force known as dark energy. It has even been posited that they are tunnels between universes, a type of wormhole.

The findings apply to medium-sized black holes (between 100 to 10,000 solar masses), which are much harder to detect than their supermassive counterparts.

“Astrophysicists have uncovered evidence that they exist,” said Ms. Kiroglu. “But that evidence can often be explained by other mechanisms. For example, what appears to be an intermediate-mass black hole might actually be the accumulation of stellar-mass black holes.”

Her team developed new hydrodynamic models including a large star, which was sent towards it. Then they calculated the gravitational force acting on its particles during the approach.

They were able to calculate specifically which particle was bound to the star and which particle was disrupted, and flung loose.

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A star (bright dot, right) flying across the galaxy after being ejected from an intermediate-mass black hole – SWNS

The study showed stars could orbit an intermediate-mass black hole as many as five times before finally being ejected. With each pass around, the star loses more and more of its mass as it’s ripped apart.

The black hole kicks the leftovers back out into the galaxy, moving at searing speeds.

The repeating pattern would create a stunning light show that should help astronomers recognize, and prove, the existence of intermediate-mass black holes.

“It’s amazing the star isn’t fully ripped apart,” she added. “Some stars get lucky and survive the event.

“The ejection speed is so high that these stars could be identified as hyper-velocity stars, which have been observed at the centers of galaxies.”

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She next plans to simulate giant and binary stars to explore their interactions with black holes.

Supermassive black holes are believed to power their galaxies—and one currently sits at the heart of the Milky Way.

The findings were presented at a virtual meeting of the American Physical Society.

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