Image of the Day: Massive Black Hole Unleashing Violent Cosmic Flare in Remote Corner of the Universe


A black hole at the centre of a galaxy in a remote corner of the Universe some 3.8 billion light years away, unleashed a violent cosmic flare as its gravity tore a star asunder. Astronomers are three of the planet's most powerful telescopes –- Hubble, Swift and the Chandra X-ray Observatory –- to study the unusual spectacle.

Gamma-ray bursts are commonly produced by the deaths of massive stars, and usually produce exploding flares that last up to a few hours. But this one is diiferent: more than a week later, astronomers are still detecting the irregular oscillating glow of this blast. Astronomers have surmised that a star that strayed too close to the galaxy's central black hole may have triggered the blast. Gravity tugged more forcefully on the side of the star closest to the black hole, ripping the star apart. The debris forms a jet that shoots away from the black hole and beams gamma rays our way.

The image above is from the Swift telescope, a specialized gamma-ray burst hunter that discovered the blast on 28 March.

Image credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

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