Unto the end, for the presses [gittith]: a psalm of David.  O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth! For thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise, because of thy enemies, that thou mayst destroy the enemy and the avenger.  For I will behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers: the moon and the stars which thou hast founded.  What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?  Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour:  And hast set him over the works of thy hands.  Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen: moreover the beasts also of the fields.  The birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, that pass through the paths of the sea.  O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in all the earth!
They’re known as tidal disruption events: when a black hole consumes a nearby star.
And now, scientists have observed a dramatic tidal disruption event in a galaxy nearly 4 billion light years away, involving a black hole that’s approximately a million times as massive as our sun. The matter that this supermassive black hole swallowed created what’s called an accretion disk around the black hole.
The supermassive black hole, called Swift J1644+57, was dormant— as 90 percent of black holes are— until it sucked in the star, shredding it. That event allowed scientists to observe the black hole.
“Tidal disruption events offer us this rare view at the most common kind of supermassive black hole in the universe— these so-called dormant supermassive black holes,” Erin Kara, a Hubble postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland, said in a video explaining the discovery. “Tidal disruption events, where the stellar debris causes the formation of a temporary accretion disk, offers us a way to probe this population of supermassive black holes.”
What’s more, that accretion disk amplified x-ray flares— and the location of where those x-rays are coming was surprising.
“Previously, astronomers had thought that the x-ray emission is coming from far out in a jet,” Kara said. “But what we’re finding with these observations, is that the x-ray emission is coming from flares very close to the supermassive black hole. And we can use these observations to probe properties of the black hole itself.”
“For instance, we found that the mass of the black hole is something on the order of a million times the mass of the sun,” she added.