A bright, long duration flare may be the first recorded event of a black hole destroying a star in a dwarf galaxy. The evidence comes from two independent studies using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes.
As part of an ongoing search of Chandra’s archival data for events signaling the disruption of stars by massive black holes, astronomers found a prime candidate. Beginning in 1999, an unusually bright X-ray source had appeared in a dwarf galaxy and then faded until it was no longer detected after 2005.
“We can’t see the star being torn apart by the black hole,” Peter Maksym of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who led one of the studies, “but we can track what happens to the star’s remains, and compare it with other, similar events. This one fits the profile of ‘death by a black hole.’”