The Birth of a Black Hole


Sakkmesterke/Science

In 2018, astronomers were shocked to find a bizarre explosion in a galaxy 200 million light-years away. It wasn’t like any normal supernova seen before—it was both briefer and brighter. The event was given an official designation, AT2018cow, but it soon went by a more jovial nickname: the Cow.

The short-lived event—known as a transient—defied explanation. Some thought it might be a star being torn apart by a nearby black hole, but others favored a “failed supernova” scenario, where a black hole quite literally eats a star from the inside out. To find out for sure, they needed to find more Cow-like events.

More than two years later, they got one.

Beginning on October 12, 2020, telescopes watched as something in a galaxy 3 billion light-years away became incredibly bright, then disappeared from view. It behaved almost identically to the Cow, astronomers reported in a paper posted to the online preprint site arXiv.org last week, leading them to conclude that it must be the same type of episode. In keeping with tradition, it was given its own animal-inspired name: the Camel.

These astronomers were able to watch the course of this event, from a bright, explosive start, to what likely is a failed star collapsing into a black hole. In real time…happening 3 billion years ago.

One thought on “The Birth of a Black Hole

  1. Nightmare fuel says:

    Something Huge and Invisible Is Making Nearby Stars Vanish, Scientists Propose : Stars that have gone missing from the Hyades cluster may have been torn away by a dark matter monster with the mass of 10 million Suns. https://www.vice.com/en/article/epdy8j/something-huge-and-invisible-is-making-nearby-stars-vanish-scientists-propose
    The culprit may be a dark matter substructure, a relic that contains the mass of 10 million Suns and is made of a mysterious non-luminous substance. The possible presence of this “Galactic lump” was detected in a new map that charts out the enormous extent of the Hyades star cluster, located only 153 light years from Earth, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/full_html/2021/03/aa39949-20/aa39949-20.html

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