When You Wish Upon a Star (Make sure it’s not being eaten.)

This article has made Sheldon very nervous.

No matter what you were doing March 28th, your day couldn’t have been as bad as a star in a distant galaxy that was recently eaten (EATEN!?) by a black hole.  I mean think about it this way, you’re just some awesome star, radiantly shining in the galaxy, minding your own business, and then you aren’t.

On that day Nasa’s Swift satellite captured footage of a gamma-ray blast (dubbed Sw 1644+57), that was brighter and has lasted longer than any other similar flashes ever seen by scientists. How bright? Oh, about the equal to a hundred billion of our own suns. I don’t think anyone makes sunglasses that can match that yet.  They believe the burst of light occurred the moment when the black hole began to wrap its tendrils around the star, about the size of our sun, slowly sucking it in another galaxy 3.8 billion light years away. While the star is slowly being ripped apart, energy is continuously being released. The show is still going on two and a half months later because, apparently, this black hole likes to play with its food.

The actual paper was published in Science , although if you’re like me and don’t understand astronomical terms very well – National Geographic has a good article summarizing it.

Scientists claim that events like this only occur every now and then, so we’re pretty much safe from this kind of phenomenon (Though 2012 is coming up…). If you’re like us, this whole article has probably left you intrigued (and a little hungry), so check out some related Sporcle quizzes below:

Heavenly Body Haiku

A-Z Astronomy

Astronomical Terms

Lifecyle of Stars

Up close and personal space objects

What Moons, Stars and Suns are made of

 

 

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