Superluminous Supernova Found to Be a Black Hole

Thursday, 15 December 2016 - 5:13PM
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Thursday, 15 December 2016 - 5:13PM
Superluminous Supernova Found to Be a Black Hole
ASASSN-25lh, a massive explosion detected in 2015, was first classified as a superluminous supernova - more specifically, the brightest supernova recorded in history, 20 times brighter than the light produced by the entire Milky Way galaxy.

But now, a team of scientists led by astronomer Giorgios Leloudas has proposed an alternate theory for the cause of this insane burst of light. A study detailing the new findings was published Monday on Nature.com, and according to it's thesis, a spinning black hole consuming a passing star may have been responsible.

Opening quote
"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," said Leloudas. "Our results indicate that the event was probably caused by a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole as it destroyed a low-mass star," Leloudas said in the statement.
Closing quote


The aforementioned black hole lives at the center of the galaxy, and has an estimated mass of about 100 million times that of the Sun. Though the star that was consumed technically existed outside of the black hole's event horizon, the rapid spinning of the black hole was strong enough to override the event horizon, and pull the star in anyway. This event is called a tidal disruption event, and has only been observed ten times to date.

In the process of tidal disruption, the star was essentially turned into a million tiny pieces, and the combination of shocks in the colliding debris and heat during the destruction process led to a burst of light. This burst of light, in turn, gave the event the false appearance of a very bright supernova explosion. 

Though it appears to be scientifically plausible, it's important to keep in mind that this tidal disruption is just a theory. "Even with all the collected data we cannot say with 100% certainty that the ASASSN-15lh event was a tidal disruption event," Leloudas admits, "but it is by far the most likely explanation."
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