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Four billion years ago a star left its legacy as it met its physically inevitable demise
April 8, 2011 8:10 PM   Subscribe

A gamma ray burst nicknamed GRB 110328A (i.e. detected 3/28/2011) appears to be the legacy of a star being torn apart by a supermassive black hole, leaving a peak brightness one trillion times the sun's brightness as it met its ancient inevitable end.
posted by jjray (51 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like anyone could even know that
posted by holdkris99 at 8:31 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a follow up post.
posted by maryr at 8:35 PM on April 8, 2011


This is such old news... it happened four billion years ago.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 8:45 PM on April 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, we're discussing Boehner and the Tea Party in another thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 PM on April 8, 2011


Universe! Fuck Yeah!
posted by chimaera at 8:50 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Supermassive black hole?
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 PM on April 8, 2011


so stars are really dead light?
posted by clavdivs at 8:53 PM on April 8, 2011


Gah, pesky astronomers making me feel all small and insignificant when I'm trying to enjoy my Pepperidge Farm cookie.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:02 PM on April 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


Telescope Finds Unknown Structure.

LHC Locking In on New Elementary Particle.


Large Hadron Collider could send matter back (or forward) in time.

some cool stuff.
posted by clavdivs at 9:09 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


In other massive gamma ray news the largest ever 'quake' on wikipedia is a starquake in a neutron star with magnitude 22.7.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 PM on April 8, 2011


Can I just take this moment to say, the idea of something as massive as a star being torn apart over the course of a day or three is utterly terrifying?

Because it is.
posted by hippybear at 9:13 PM on April 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I thought that might happen.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:13 PM on April 8, 2011


you relize what this means?
posted by clavdivs at 9:17 PM on April 8, 2011


it means the next shipment of unubtainium is fucked.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I feel so insignificant! But then, I always feel insignificant.

That's enough! Normal view.
posted by maryr at 9:22 PM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


.
posted by CarlRossi at 9:27 PM on April 8, 2011


*
posted by CarlRossi at 9:27 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, we're discussing Boehner and the Tea Party in another thread.

This thread's about a super-massive black hole. The other thread is about a super-massive asshole.
posted by orthogonality at 9:30 PM on April 8, 2011 [22 favorites]


Maximillian Schell was right.
posted by clavdivs at 9:32 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The biggest show of all, the universe
posted by delmoi at 9:42 PM on April 8, 2011


Today is my birthday and I couldn't hope for anything better than another imaginary time scale.
Thank you, Universe!
posted by at the crossroads at 9:49 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Can I just take this moment to say, the idea of something as massive as a star being torn apart over the course of a day or three is utterly terrifying?

Because it is.
"

Yeah! And just imagine, If the the star was a million or more kilometers in diameter and it died in a few days, then the gravitational tides generated by that black hole must have been traveling through its substance at speeds much greater than sound. So a hypothetical observer somehow standing on the star might not hear or see anything amiss before - crack! Everything explodes.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:50 PM on April 8, 2011


Can I just take this moment to say, the idea of something as massive as a star being torn apart over the course of a day or three is utterly terrifying?

Oh totally. But equally horrifying is the looking at it from the opposite direction; it's an explosive destruction so vast that instead of the fraction on an instant we understand and expect here on earth, it took seventy some hours to complete.
posted by quin at 9:50 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


From delmoi's link:

A similar blast within 3 parsecs (10 light years) of Earth would destroy the ozone layer.
posted by ofthestrait at 9:56 PM on April 8, 2011


That's a plot point in a Greg Egan novel, and there was some speculation that a gamma ray burst caused the Ordovician-Silurian extinction event 450 million years ago. But fortunately for us, the probability of being struck by a black hole death ray is pretty slim.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:07 PM on April 8, 2011


From what I understand the best speculation (from the magnitude and duration of the event) is that this event may have been the destruction of a galaxy's central black hole(s).

Imagine this: Four and a half billion years ago every form of carbon based life on every planet around every star , all went extinct within a hundred thousand years or so of each other.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:16 PM on April 8, 2011


in that galaxy
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:16 PM on April 8, 2011


"'Can I just take this moment to say, the idea of something as massive as a star being torn apart over the course of a day or three is utterly terrifying?'

Oh totally. But equally horrifying is the looking at it from the opposite direction; it's an explosive destruction so vast that instead of the fraction on an instant we understand and expect here on earth, it took seventy some hours to complete."


Just think, due to the time-invariant nature of physics (discounting Time's Arrow, which may be a purely anthropic phenomenon), it's just as possible that that star is/was being violently spat out into existence. While I don't think either occurrence is "terrifying," it's certainly astonishing, if just for the scale.
posted by Eideteker at 10:17 PM on April 8, 2011


Thanks for this. It made my brain hurt a little bit but I really enjoyed it.
posted by friendlyjuan at 10:32 PM on April 8, 2011


there's a song about swift...
posted by sexyrobot at 10:44 PM on April 8, 2011


Can I just take this moment to say, the idea of something as massive as a star being torn apart over the course of a day or three is utterly terrifying

In a sense, it's going to be ripped apart by the black hole forever since time stops at the event horizon.
posted by empath at 11:46 PM on April 8, 2011


Man, that was my nickname.
posted by dsword at 11:58 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


starquake in a neutron star with magnitude 22.7.

After reading Wikipedia, it was interesting to find out that a magnetar half the distance from the moon would wipe out everyone's credit cards, and that a magnetar 1000 km away would kill everyone from the diamagnetism in water molecules. There's gotta be a sci-fi story in there about everyone's credit being wiped out, and not being able to buy stuff before suddenly getting sucked up by one of nature's biggest magnets.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:11 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else find it odd that the naming system used doesn't obviously account for detected bursts outside the current 100-year period? How were Gamma Ray Bursts labelled last century? Do the scientists know that we're all going to be dead in 20 years so it doesn't matter anyway?

Will it be because of all these darned gamma rays!?

That's it, off to wikipedia.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 12:46 AM on April 9, 2011


Man, that was my nickname.

GRB 110328A?
posted by hal9k at 3:38 AM on April 9, 2011


Just think, due to the time-invariant nature of physics (discounting Time's Arrow, which may be a purely anthropic phenomenon)
Black holes are maximally entropic objects. So, if anything were to be ejected from a black hole, it would reduce entropy. This is a pretty important feature of black holes, so I'm not really sure where you get the idea you can just discount 'Time's Arrow' -- which refers to the creation of entropy: you can tell which way time flows by looking at the amount of entropy. The more entropy the later the time.
posted by delmoi at 6:01 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Four and a half billion years ago every form of carbon based life on every planet around every star , all went extinct within a hundred thousand years or so of each other.

I doubt it would have taken all of them. Complex animals would be toast, but some organisms can be pretty tough. Bacteria live in the cores of nuclear reactors, and at Chernobyl there are fungi which have adapted use melanin instead of chlorophyll to convert gamma radiation into energy for growth.

And of course cockroaches. Nothing kills cockroaches.
posted by localroger at 6:20 AM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


How do I use it to become the Incredible Hulk?
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Four billion years ago? Very space opera!
posted by dr_dank at 6:58 AM on April 9, 2011


"Can I just take this moment to say, the idea of something as massive as a star being torn apart over the course of a day or three is utterly terrifying?"

Because it is.


and

"Oh totally. But equally horrifying is the looking at it from the opposite direction; it's an explosive destruction so vast that instead of the fraction on an instant we understand and expect here on earth, it took seventy some hours to complete."

Oh hell yes. That's something I've been pondering, given all the disasters lately. The day of the earthquake in Japan, there were videos of the actual earthquake happening on CNN.com pretty quickly. One struck me in particular. It was a guy in a park, walking along some sidewalks. It was very peaceful- the sidewalks would pitch and shift a couple of inches in a matter of a couple of seconds. Like being on a midsized ship. Here and there, cracks in the earth would open up, fill with groundwater, and then close back up and spurt the water out in little geysers. Meanwhile, buildings were getting scrambled.

And when it seems to be over, it hadn't even begun. There was a wall of water charging in from the sea.

Or we watch the efforts to keep that nuke plant under control. We might sit there and wonder why they don't do X, Y and Z. Meanwhile, the people dealing with it haven't slept in a week and are working as fast as they can.

Or the tornado footage here recently. From the perspective of the people inside the building, it was instantaneous. But if you were across the parking lot, it would appear to be a progression, this big thing loping along at 25-55 MPH.
posted by gjc at 7:41 AM on April 9, 2011


In a sense, it's going to be ripped apart by the black hole forever since time stops at the event horizon.

Time only appears to stop because the massive gravity is slowing down the light particles we are using to see what is happening.
posted by gjc at 7:55 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


localroger: at Chernobyl there are fungi which have adapted [to] use melanin instead of chlorophyll to convert gamma radiation into energy for growth.

Nah, that sounds like nonsense.

(Googles)

Really?

localroger, that's the most awesome thing I'll learn this week! Thanks.
posted by alasdair at 8:38 AM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Black holes are maximally entropic objects. So, if anything were to be ejected from a black hole, it would reduce entropy.

They contain the maximum amount of entropy in a given volume, but they radiate and evaporate, which still increases entropy. The volume of the black hole decreases while they do that, though.
posted by empath at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2011


I dunno, for some reason, this whole thing just makes me hungry for pulled chicken. Violently pulled chicken, but still... pulled chicken.
posted by SNWidget at 9:42 AM on April 9, 2011


"...I'm not really sure where you get the idea you can just discount 'Time's Arrow' -- which refers to the creation of entropy: you can tell which way time flows by looking at the amount of entropy. The more entropy the later the time."

oh look wikipedia
posted by Eideteker at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2011


"Time only appears to stop because the massive gravity is slowing down the light particles we are using to see what is happening."

What I was taught is that time really does slow down under the influence of a gravitational field. So an observer outside the gravity of the black hole would watch an object fall in, watch the object get torn apart into photons, and then track the resulting radiation as it fell into the hole, going slower and slower as it redshifted towards invisibility. That radiation would never quite reach the event horizon, although it would eventually become undetectable by any conceivable means.

But from the perspective of the object in the gravitational field the end would come quickly. It would be torn to shreds and fall into the singularity without any delay. But before that happened it would observe the outside universe speeding up, with billions of years flashing by in moments until all the light blueshifted into searing radiation and any information content was lost.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:09 PM on April 9, 2011


It would be torn to shreds and fall into the singularity without any delay. But before that happened it would observe the outside universe speeding up, with billions of years flashing by in moments until all the light blueshifted into searing radiation and any information content was lost.

Man, that would suck.

For people in the field...

How common is mental breakdown in the field of astrophysics? Are you often passed by screaming colleagues as they violently pursue a change in career? Do you often brag to bomb-disposal experts that although their job is stressful, you deal with concepts and events which would make them cut the red wire on purpose?

In short, how do you process this shit?

Can I just take this moment to say, the idea of something as massive as a star being torn apart over the course of a day or three is utterly terrifying?

Because it is.

posted by fullerine at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


with billions of years flashing by in moments until all the light blueshifted into searing radiation and any information content was lost.

Wait... isn't the concept that information can NOT be lost what led Hawking to change his theories about black holes?

I think it's that same idea which led to the holographic universe theory, too.
posted by hippybear at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2011


Four and a half billion years ago every form of carbon based life on every planet around every star , all went extinct within a hundred thousand years or so of each other.

I doubt it would have taken all of them. Complex animals would be toast, but some organisms can be pretty tough. Bacteria live in the cores of nuclear reactors, and at Chernobyl there are fungi which have adapted use melanin instead of chlorophyll to convert gamma radiation into energy for growth.

And of course cockroaches. Nothing kills cockroaches.


Four and a half billion years ago...
Every planet... everywhere...
GALAXY OF THE COCKROACHES!
posted by -harlequin- at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2011


"Wait... isn't the concept that information can NOT be lost what led Hawking to change his theories about black holes?"

You're absolutely right, the information contained within the matter and energy falling into a black hole can't be lost. I was speaking in a fuzzy, nontechnical way about the perspective of an observer falling towards the event horizon. They'd get a really short look at the history of the universe before all the incoming photons became too energetic to be caught by eyes or antennae or whatever.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:45 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Time only appears to stop because the massive gravity is slowing down the light particles we are using to see what is happening.

The whole point of relativity is that you can't distinguish between what appears to be happening and what actually is happening. From our point of view, time stops. From it's point of view, nothing special at all happened as it crossed the event horizon. Both are right.
posted by empath at 10:27 PM on April 9, 2011


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