Astronomers have made a wonderful discovery massive black hole devouring star – and they nicknamed her “Scary Barbie,” in part because of her frightening powers. Scientists called it one of the “brightest, most vibrant, long-lasting transient objects” ever found lurking in a forgotten corner of the night sky.
Bhagya Subrayan, a Purdue University graduate student, said The researchers believe that the black hole “pulled into a star and ripped it apart,” in a brutal process called “spaghettification.” The thing, documented in The Astrophysical Journal Letterswas assigned a random designation, ZTF20abrbeie, leading to the creation of its stylish nickname.
While the “outlier” death event went undetected for years with other telescopic data, a Purdue lab’s artificial intelligence engine — the Recommender Engine For Intelligent Transient Tracking (REFITT) — helped detect the “scary” anomaly.
REFITT “combs through millions of alerts” to help researchers find interesting phenomena in space — but for something hidden in plain sight, like Creepy Barbie, the computer doesn’t have a single “template” to find it.
The researchers called the event “absurd.”
“If you take a typical supernova and multiply it by a thousand times, we still don’t know how bright it is – and supernovae are among the brightest objects in the sky,” said Danny Milisavljevic. , an assistant professor of physics and astronomy. “It’s the most energetic phenomenon I’ve ever experienced.”
A team of “supernova sleuths” found that Scary Barbie’s light “exceeds any observed or theorized supernova,” leading them to classify the event as a tidal disruptionwhere material from the torn apart star is blown away by the black hole.
And just as Barbie killed a new job, Scary Barbie killed the internet, prompting memes inspired by the movie’s template.
The star eater is described as transient, meaning it can appear, disappear or change dramatically in mere hours or days – rather than centuries or millennia. While most transients last only weeks or months, this one lasted more than 800 days — and data shows it could be seen for a few more years, a duration that is “not like anything we’ve seen before,” Underline said.
The matter is “still changing,” according to the study, and researchers are hopeful continuous observation using NASA’s James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes will eventually allow them to identify Barbie’s host galaxy.
“Discoveries like this really open our eyes to the fact that we are still uncovering mysteries and exploring wonders in the universe – things that no one has ever seen,” says Milisavljevic.