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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Animation Of Black Hole Swallowing Star

August 4, 2012

On March 28, 2011, NASA’s Swift detected intense X-ray flares thought to be caused by a black hole devouring a star. In one model, illustrated here, a sun-like star on an eccentric orbit plunges too close to its galaxy’s central black hole. About half of the star’s mass feeds an accretion disk around the black hole, which in turn powers a particle jet that beams radiation toward Earth.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab