Astronomers observe star's fortunate escape from black hole with minor damage

         Astronomers have recently observed a star escaping, with only a small part of its mass torn off, after almost being captured by a black hole. The star was situated some 650 million light years away toward Ursa Major, the constellation that contains the "Big Dipper".

Image for representational purposes only.

Astronomers at The Ohio State University (US) couldn't see the star itself with their All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN). However, they did see the light that flared as the black hole "ate" the material that it managed to capture. The report stated that the star and the black hole are located in a galaxy outside of the newly dubbed Laniakea Supercluster, of which our home Milky Way Galaxy is a part.

Based on the amount of energy released during the event, the researchers calculated that a relatively small amount of stellar material, only one thousandth of the mass of Earth's sun, an amount approximately equal to the mass of the planet Jupiter had been sucked into the black hole.

Christopher Kochanek, professor of astronomy at Ohio State, said that conventional wisdom suggested that black holes don't consume whole stars all that often, maybe only once every 10,000-100,000 years but how often do they tear off just a piece of a passing star was still an open question.

The study is published in the Royal Astronomical Society.

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