This Black Hole Burps Up a Star It Devoured Two Years Ago

As a black hole devours a star, it pulls the star into a long noodle-like shape that wraps around the black hole like spaghetti around a fork. Scientists even call it spaghettification. Sometimes black holes fling some of the star back out, which astronomers call a burp. When this happens, it’s usually right away. But scientists recently saw a black hole burp more than two years after it destroyed a star. It’s like nothing ever seen before and scientists have no idea what will happen next.

Graphic of a star being sucked into a black hole, with part of it circling around the black hole
DESY, Science Communication Lab

We saw the news in Live Science. The team noticed that a black hole that devoured a star back in 2018 was active again. According to a press release, the original event was called AT2018hyz and faded after a few months. But when it lit up again, scientists studied this long-delayed burp using telescopes in the aptly named Very Large Array in New Mexico, along with others on Earth and in orbit. They published the peer-reviewed results in The Astrophysics Journal.

The study’s lead author, Yvette Cendes, is a postdoctoral fellow and science writer. She revealed in the Twitter thread below that she refers to the “hella bright” black hole as Jetty McJetFace. Which is certainly more memorable than AT2018hyz.

Scientists are able to take better pictures of black holes than ever before, including the jets of particles they eject. But they don’t always check back after one eats a star. It could be that this is a widespread phenomenon and we just haven’t been looking. Cendes says the team has no idea what will happen next, but she’ll be looking.  

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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