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It wasn’t a supernova: Massive black hole “spaghettified” a planet

by Todd Haselton | December 17, 2016December 17, 2016 9:00 am PDT

Imagine if you were able to watch a massive black hole suck up a planet and then spit it out in a stringy mess of debris. That’s what astronomers with the speaking with the European Southern Observatory believe happened to a planet, creating a bright so light that it was thought to be the brightest supernova ever spotted. It even had a name “ASASSN-15lh.” But it wasn’t a supernova, it was a hungry black hole having its massive lunch.

“We observed the source for 10 months following the event and have concluded that the explanation is unlikely to lie with an extraordinarily bright supernova. Our results indicate that the event was probably caused by a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole as it destroyed a low-mass star,” Giorgos Leloudas, a scientist with the the Weizmann Institute of Science told European Southern Observatory. Researchers working with the Dark Cosmology Centre in Denmark also found similar findings.

Basically, the black hole was so powerful that, as it began to suck up the planet, it “spaghettified” it. The European Southern Oberservatory said that force created “a burst of light” that “gave the event the appearance of a very bright supernova explosion, even though the star would not have become a supernova on its own as it did not have enough mass.” Part of me imagines this looking like an orange getting dropped into a blender, but with a lot more heat and light.

Scientists say they still can’t be certain this is what happened, but it’s more likely than the explosion being the result of a supernova.

The Final Frontier...

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Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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