Scientists Hear a Star’s ‘Screams’ As It’s Devoured By Blackhole

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REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout

Artist's concept of a star being ripped apart and swallowed by a supermassive black hole over time.

Scientists have recorded the last gasps of a star being swallowed by a black hole, and are likening its “quasiperiodic oscillations” to a human scream.

“You can think of it as hearing the star scream as it gets devoured,” astronomer Jon Miller told University of Michigan’s press service.

However, the old Alien tagline still applies: in space, no one can hear you scream. Without any medium to move through, sound waves can’t travel through the vacuum of space — so by “scream,” Miller actually means that the star emits an oscillating signal at a frequency that, if converted into something audible, would sound like an ultra-low D-sharp.

As the star is being ripped apart by the black hole, its material “wobbles” just before being devoured. That wobble, scientists think, is the source of the signal detected by their telescopes.

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A team at the University of Michigan recorded the signal using the Suzaku and XMM-Newton orbiting telescopes. While similar phenomena have been observed in big black holes before, scientists have never detected such an event from so far away; this particular black hole lives in a galaxy approximately 3.9 billion light years from Earth, in the constellation Draco.

“Our discovery opens the possibility of studying orbits close to black holes that are very distant, and it could make it possible to study general relativity under extreme settings,” Miller said.

And don’t worry—despite its protestations, the star didn’t feel any pain.

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24 comments
doodlebug2222
doodlebug2222

I so wish I could unread that headline... now I'll never look at stars the same way again...

DispassionateObserver
DispassionateObserver

We humans are so self centered.  Could anything possibly be more absurd than equating a physical event to a human emotional response?  We have a need to anthropomorphosize everything.

doodlebug2222
doodlebug2222

I am sooooo guessing you had to hit the dictionary.com to look up how to spell: "anthropomorphosize"...

DispassionateObserver
DispassionateObserver

Sorry to disappoint you doodlebug2222, but my brain is poisoned with multisyllabic words inserted during my formal education and years of subsequent exposure to technical material related to my work as well as an insatiable fascination with hardcore science fiction.  The combination has made (G-d help me) words like anthropomorphosize part of my regular vocabulary.

Nick Girard
Nick Girard

Anthropomorphic depictions of phenomena make things easier to understand, but sometimes they're a little sensationalist.

Tomasz Pelczar
Tomasz Pelczar

The ultimate topic and story, astrophysic (astrophysical issues) is/are for me more interesting then my more favorite songs played by electric guitar almost like in the movie Back to the future (less expensive is tennis and similar funny, plus emotions are more comfortable), the astrophysic is giving he background to the astrochemistry and astrobiology, which is both awesome and cute ... 

Mike Cap
Mike Cap

Catherine, Catherine, "the star didn't feel any pain". The most ignorant statement i have read in the long time -- HOW DO YOU KNOW ?????

Nick Girard
Nick Girard

lol, because it's just warbling while moving faster and faster into a black hole, it's not really screaming. Don't be a Gaia theorist. Earth is a bunch of matter. A very beautiful ecosystem. We're a bunch of matter too, the brain is the source of pain, because pain is a concept.

worldscam
worldscam

HOPEFULLY, that will happen to EARTH soon - since HUMANS are nothing but SCUM and Humanity needs to end.. . UNLESS Obama loses, of course.  Then, we'll be ok.

sscarzz
sscarzz

We're being pulled into the holes gravitational pull, What do we DO?    We die..............

Mike Cap
Mike Cap

 so what, you gotta die anyway

Jason
Jason

pretty neato

Jason
Jason

Pretty neato

Shawn Nolan Jr.
Shawn Nolan Jr.

sound clips?...

Douglas_Einer
Douglas_Einer

Yes, I'd also enjoy hearing what it would've sounded like if it were sound rather than light-!

ERenger
ERenger

How do they know for certain that these are the screams of the star being eaten --- couldn't it actually be the growls of the ravenous black hole as it devours the hapless star? 

KB_Corkless
KB_Corkless

Scientists have observed similar phenomena on Earth when "stars" get sucked into the blackhole of reality TV (more of an E-flat groan).