Cosmic fiction: Astronomers see black hole swallowing neutron star

Astronomers say they have seen for the first time a black hole swallowing a neutron star, the densest object in the universe

Talk about a heavy breakfast. For the first time, astronomers have observed a black hole swallowing a neutron star, the densest object in the universe—all in a split-second gulp.

Ten days later he saw the same thing, on the other side of the universe. In both cases, a neutron star—one whose spoonful would weigh a billion tons—orbits close to that end point of no return, a black hole, until they eventually crash together and the neutron star becomes a neutron star. Goes to the goblet.

Astronomers observed the final 500 orbits before neutron stars were swallowed up, a process that took less than a minute and briefly produced as much energy as all visible light in the observable universe.

“It was just a big quick[fiction]gone,” said study co-author Patrick Brady, an astrophysicist at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. The black hole “gets a nice dinner of a neutron star and makes itself a little more massive.”

The burst of energy from collisions was detected when detectors saw the merger on the earth’ gravitational waves, Cosmic energetic waves fly through space and time as first proven by Albert Einstein. They each came from more than a billion light years away. The waves were detected in January 2020, but a study that analyzed and interpreted the data by more than 100 scientists was published on Tuesday Astrophysical Journal Letters.

While astronomers observed gravitational waves two black holes collide and two neutron stars Colliding with each other, this is the first time they have seen each crash together.

neutron stars The corpses of massive stars are what is left after a massive star dies in a supernova explosion. They are so dense that they have about 1.5 to twice the mass of our Sun, but are about 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide, Brady said. Some black holes, known as stellar black holes, are formed when a single massive star creates something in itself with such a powerful gravity that not even light can escape.

Scientists think there must be many of these neutron star and black hole pairs, but they have yet to find one in our own galaxy.

“It’s great,” said astrophysicist Mark Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University, who was not part of the research. He said this would help astronomers estimate how abundant these pairs are.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter @borenbears.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.


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