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The so-called ‘brightest supernova’ was actually a giant black hole consuming a star!

The so-called ‘brightest supernova’ was actually a giant black hole consuming a star!

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In Summary

In mid-2015 astronomers came across something super bright and luminous, possibly identified as a supernova. But In December 2016, they gathered enough data and figures to call it a giant black hole during consumption.  

Editor Posted by Ansheed

The brightest of bright


What is the brightest thing you have ever seen? Is it our Sun? Well, some might say in the light of their science class as ‘Stars’. Yes, there are starts thousand times brighter than our sun. But the brightest thing ain’t a star, it will be a ‘Supernova’. Technically supernova is a dying star whose end is marked by a catastrophic destruction due to which the star light up millions of time its original power, which gradually fades.


To a pinch some gasp, a supernova might be 100 ~ 500 billion times brighter than our sun! Most heavy elements we know of today are born inside a supernova because fusion of atoms requires a tremendous amount of energy which even  couldn’t be found inside the core of a star. In mid-2015 astronomers came across something presumably 600 billion times brighter than our sun! In fact, they name it ASASSN-15lh after the network of telescope center involved in the discovery. 


Inside the story


All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) is a group of telescope networks spread across Chile and Hawaii. While they were grazing sky, something unusually brighter hit their viewpoint, but it was too bright to be called a supernova. So astronomers though it might be a super-luminous supernova (SLSN), which is a hyper grade explosion of starts unusually stronger than a standard supernova.


But ASASSN-15lh doesn’t fit the scenario because an SLSN is supposed to be found only on a young dwarf galaxy filled with gas and dust, in constant interaction with stars which burn brightly and explode superiorly powerful than a normal explosion. However, ASASSN-15lh was found in a comparably older galaxy which has low fuel to trigger an SLSN.


In order to wipe the doubt away, astronomers started collecting information from all possible authentic sources like Hubble Space telescope, the European Southern Observatory’s, Las Cumbres Observatory and Swift gamma-ray satellite. The data collected doesn’t seem to fit the description of an SLSN. Usually, these hypernova’s are supposed to found on the outer skirts of a galaxy but here ASASSN-15lh seem to be located in the center of the galaxy. The heat signature of the star tells the astronomers that they must be in their prime stage, rather than being a dead star.


Is it a star in a black hole?


Data suggests it might be a supermassive black hole consuming a prime star. ASASSN-15lh might be the death gasp of a star while being pulled inside a black hole. Due to the extreme gravitational pull the star might have been ripped apart exhibiting a phenomenon called Tidal Disruption Event (TDE). TDE’s are so rare that only 10 such events were so far discovered by astronomers in this humongous Universe. Though there are disputes, the theory suggests one possible chance of black hole game here. When the star is ripped apart the heating core creates a massive explosion under the gravitational pull, which in fact exhibits such a powerful light wave similar to an SLSN.