Black holes can burp, science says so


Black holes were theorized by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity 100 years ago now. But a century later, if the presence of these objects is proven, the scientific world still knows little about them.

A black hole is an extremely massive object, so heavy that it distorts space-time and all objects that are too close to it fall into a kind of “well”. In October 2018, astronomers spotted a star, ten times lighter than the Sun, to be “eaten” by a black hole.

An overpowering intergalactic “burp”

A fairly banal experience in the end, which does not attract much attention from the scientific community. For months the star will break down into a long thread under the effect of the black hole’s gravity. Like a ball of wool, the star is deconstructed.

This phenomenon, well known to scientists, is called “spaghettification”. It generally lasts a few months for stars of this size, the time for the whole star to be swallowed up by the black hole. Scientists follow this celestial spectacle from Earth, located 665 million light years away.

But during a new study of this black hole, Yvette Cendes, a researcher at Harvard University, will make a historic discovery. In June 2021, three years after having “sucked up” the star, the scientist discovered that the black hole was “rejecting” it.

A unique phenomenon

In her article on the subject, Yvette Cendes compares this ejection of matter to a “burp” emitted by the black hole. This unique phenomenon will now be studied closely in order to understand why the black hole reacted in this way.

It is above all the timing that questions. Releases of matter by black holes are known to scientists. But they usually occur weeks or months after absorption, not three years after. In addition to this late decision, the black hole expelled matter with great force. Yvette Cendes calculated that the jets traveled through space at half the speed of light. It’s 5 times faster than classic rejects.

The search continues

Scientists will now study other releases of matter on other black holes to understand if this event is exceptional or if researchers around the world have just discovered a banal event on the scale of the Universe.

Black holes are fascinating objects and eating habits do not follow any logic. While some black holes seem “hungry”, others are much more patient and can take years to swallow a star. These differences within the same category of object could make it possible to better categorize them and thus make differences between a black hole and another.

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