Astronomers discover "Scary Barbie": they have never seen anything so powerful and impressive
For the first time, astronomers have seen one of the largest black holes, J2157, tearing a neighbouring star to pieces, turning it into cosmic spaghetti. They called the phenomenon the Scary Barbie, noting that it is one of the longest, brightest and most energetic space objects ever observed.
The scientists described what they saw in an article accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Scary Barbie turned out to be brighter even than supernovae, which are among the brightest objects in space.
The black hole J2157 is located in the centre of the galaxy at a distance of about 800 million light-years from Earth. It was discovered in 2018 and since then, scientists have been closely studying it, as it is one of the largest black holes known to mankind. Its mass reaches 20 billion suns.
The flash of light caused by the Scary Barbie is surprisingly bright and has been going on for over two years. It was discovered by astronomers in a large array of data collected by computer telescopes.
"This is absurd. If you take a typical supernova and multiply it by a thousand times, we still wouldn't understand how bright it (Scary Barbie - Ed.) is - and supernovae are among the brightest objects in the sky," said Dan Milisavljevic, co-author of the study and associate professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University.
The scientist added that this is the "most energetic phenomenon" he has ever encountered.
The Scary Barbie was formed as a result of the death of a star being torn apart by a supermassive black hole. The star apparently came so close to the black hole that it could no longer resist its gravitational pull. As a result, the black hole began to tear the star apart.
As a star is drawn closer and closer to the black hole's mouth, the gravity acting on the parts of the star closer to the black hole is much stronger than that acting on the parts farther away. As a result of this imbalance, the black hole devours the star into a long noodle-like stream that wraps itself tightly around the black hole layer by layer, like spaghetti around a fork.
Over time, this noodle, made up of hot plasma, accelerates rapidly around the black hole, turning into a huge jet of energy and matter, creating a characteristic bright beam of light that can be detected by telescopes.
As for the strange name given to the event, there is no hatred for the popular Barbie doll. The fact is that the event was assigned a random alphanumeric name ZTF20abrbeie, and the terrifying power only suggested the correct option to scientists.
Despite the fact that Scary Barbie has been burning for over two years, there are no signs that it will go out anytime soon.
In the near future, astronomers hope to use the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes to take high-resolution images of the event.
"There are few things in the universe that can be so powerful and the reaction so long-lasting. Discoveries like this really open our eyes to the fact that we are still uncovering mysteries and exploring wonders in the universe - things that no one has ever seen before," Milisavljevic said.
Earlier, OBOZREVATEL also reported that NASA recorded a super-powerful explosion that shook the entire cosmos.
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