Scientists Baffled After Supermassive Black Hole ‘Burps’ Out Star Years Later

by Megan Molseed
(Getty Images/Anadolu Agency / Contributor)

In 2018 a small star got way too close to one of our universe’s biggest mysteries, the black hole. As a result, this small celestial body was ripped to shreds. All of this occurred, NASA scientists note in a galaxy that is located over 650 million light years away from the Earth.

A thrilling set of events, no doubt. However, experts in the field note that this event isn’t necessarily uncommon. In fact, incidents similar to this one are often witnessed by scientists while scanning the stars above. However, another recent event related to the doomed star has left scientists baffled. This comes as the same black hole seems to be spewing out the once-collected material in an outflow that has seen a delay of nearly four years.

Scientists Note That They Have “Never Seen Anything Like This” Unusual Black Hole Behavior

According to the experts, the team has concluded that the black hole is now ejecting material traveling slower than the speed of light. However, the scientists are still baffled as to why this output is delayed by several years at this point. Some of those involved in the investigation notes that the black hole’s behavior is similar to the act of “burping” after a meal.

“A black hole is burping up the remains of a star,” notes a Twitter post detailing the events. The post adds that these remains are of a star that the black hole “shredded and consumed nearly 3 years ago.”

“This caught us completely by surprise,” notes astronomer Yvette Cendes of the recently discovered phenomenon.

“No one has ever seen anything like this before,” the expert adds.

Scientists Note There Was No Evidence That This Black Hole Had Eaten Up Another Star

The experts are quick to note the fact that the black hole gobbled up the small celestial body wasn’t at all a surprise. It happens quite often, the scientists say. However, this light emerging from the black hole has them stumped. There is no evidence that the black hole had eaten another star since the 2018 incident.

“It’s as if this black hole has started abruptly burping out a bunch of material from the star it ate years ago,” notes Cendes.

“This is the first time that we have witnessed such a long delay between the feeding and the outflow,” adds Edo Berger, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and the CfA. Berger is also a co-author of this new study.

“The next step is to explore whether this actually happens more regularly,” Berger continues. “And we have simply not been looking at TDEs late enough in their evolution.”