Space discovery continues to expand year after year, and it’s definitely not stopping anytime soon. Recent findings show a black hole completely shrinking in size after devouring a star.
According to CNet, black holes tend to eat their way through the universe by devouring the gases of nearby stars, all while being 10,000 light years away from planet Earth.
One black hole, in particular, witnessed by NASA telescopes is around 10 times bigger than the Sun and was first discovered after an X-ray flare back in March 2018. Although the telescope was not the first to see the black hole in action, it’s definitely been keeping a close eye on it ever since. As mentioned by the source, the black hole was first detected by a specialized instrument aboard the International Space Station, leading NASA to swing in and pay close to attention to the black hole, which was nicknamed J1820.
Although it’s sometimes rude to spy on people when they eat, NASA doesn’t seem to be too concerned in this case. NASA sent up their Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), aboard the space station to monitor J1820’s eating habits. The NICER was capable of picking up “light echoes”, which is when waves of light bouncing away from the black hole are detected, showing how the J1820 changes in size and shape over time.
This provides new evidence regarding black holes and ways they change in size after eating a star. In this very case, the team working behind the J1820 project were able to know that the black hole’s corona was shrinking. When a black hole engulfs a star’s gases, it begins to swirl around its gravitational center, says CNet, where it then exhibits a form of evolution by shrinking in size. “This is the first time that we’ve seen this kind of evidence that it’s the corona shrinking”, said Jack Steiner, an astrophysicist with MIT.
This discovery is not only helping scientists further understand black holes, but also in understanding how black holes, such as the J1820, can evolve to become “supermassive”, and how these changes may influence the galaxies that surround them.