This is how fast a giant black hole spins as it swallows a star


Black holes are some of the most interesting features of our universe, but they’re also not very well understood. Studying distant black holes in any great detail is very difficult due to the fact that nothing, including light, can escape their grasp once it gets too close. Now, a black hole sitting some 290 million light-years from Earth has offered scientists the rare opportunity to measure its speed, and the numbers are mind-boggling.

Researchers using the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae telescope network detected “a burst of light” from a specific spot in the sky back in 2014. Upon closer inspection and observations using additional instruments, scientists determined that the blast of X-ray energy was coming from a star, but not just any star. This star was in the midst of being torn apart by a black hole.

The star itself had no hope of escaping the black hole’s grasp once it drifted into its event horizon — the area around a black hole from which nothing can escape — but the X-ray emissions from the star’s fractured body were still visible as the debris circled the super-dense body.