Supermassive black hole with torn-apart star (artist
Supermassive black hole with torn-apart star (artist's impression). Credit: ESO, ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

”The article shows that the explosion comes from the center of a galaxy where there are few massive stars (which are the cause of supernovas). Instead such galaxy centers often contain super-massive black holes, and if an ordinary star gets too close it can be torn apart by the black hole's gravitational force”, says Giorgos Leloudas at the Weizmann Institute, who is the first author of the study and formerly a postdoc at the Oskar Klein Centre at Stockholm University.

One of the theories in the article is that the supermassive black hole has managed to tear apart the star because it rotates so rapidly.

”The very idea that you could actually measure the rotation of a supermassive black hole that is three billion light-years away by studying how they tear the stars are very exciting”, says Jesper Sollerman, professor at the Department of Astronomy at Stockholm University who co-authored the article.

”A single one of these spectacular events might not be enough to prove what it is about but in 2017 we will start a big project, Zwicky Transient Facility, to search for various transients in the sky and we will certainly find dozens of these in the coming years”, says Jesper Sollerman.

Watch a videanimation of the fenomenon.

The article has been published in the first issue of the journal Nature Astronomy, a new publication from Nature.