Black hole slaughtering a star! Know what is Scary Barbie, the object discovered by AI

A black hole slaughtering a star has been called the brightest and the most energetic cosmic objects in the universe by astronomers. Discovered using an AI, know what exactly Scary Barbie is.

| Updated on: May 02 2023, 16:25 IST
6 STRANGEST massive black hole discoveries in 2022 that shook the world
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1/6 One of the most startling discoveries of 2022 was a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Known as Sagittarius A*, a direct image of this massive space entity was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope. With around 4 times the mass of our Sun, it is believed that the black hole plays a key role in holding our galaxy together. (Photo courtesy: Nasa)
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2/6 Even as Sagittarius A* lies within our own galaxy, it is not the closest black hole to the Earth. That title goes to the cosmic matter eating void, lying 1,566 light years away from the Earth in the Ophiuchus constellation. It was discovered in November.  (NASA)
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3/6 But if a black hole in our cosmic backyard does not scare you, maybe this will. 2022 was also the year scientists discovered a rogue black hole wandering in space. This discovery is particularly of value since it was always believed that isolated black holes exist but it was never seen due to the difficulty in spotting them. Usually all the black holes we know of are part of a binary system, along with a neutron star. (NASA)
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4/6 A rare moment occurred in December 2022 when NASA spotted a black hole eating a passing star in a rare moment known as a tidal disruption event. It was believed that the star consumed by the black hole was similar to our Sun.    (AP)
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5/6 Even after decades of research and space exploration, we have still only observed just a few black holes in the universe. However, a study published this year has made some terrifying claims. Based on the number of stars spotted which are capable of turning into a black hole, and some number crunching on the potential number of stars that can exist, it was said that the universe currently contains 40 quintillion stellar-mass black holes. (AFP)
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6/6 Finally, the brightest black hole was also discovered this year. Known as J1144, this monstrous black hole is 500 times larger than Sagittarius A* and apparently it consumes matter worth the size of the Earth every second. Because of its consumption rate, it has created a massive accretion disk which makes it so bright. In fact, it can even be seen using a regular telescope. (NASA)
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Know all about one of the strangest cosmic phenomena actually found by AI, Scary Barbie. (Representative Photo) (NASA)

The universe is filled with mysteries far beyond the understanding of humans. With every new discovery, we learn a little more about our vast neighborhood. And the more we learn, we realize how little we actually know. Earlier, astronomers believed that the most luminous or brightest cosmic objects were supernova events. But the latest discovery of a black hole destroying a star has rendered their knowledge useless. This cosmic object is still being measured in terms of energy and so far, it is more intense and shines brighter than a 1000 supernova combined together. The most interesting part is that astronomers would never have been able to find this entity if it was not for artificial intelligence or AI.

The study was uploaded to the preprint server arXiv and it has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The group unearthed the event from mass telescope data which had not been analyzed for years. The event was named ZTF20abrbeie during its initial observation and then was neglected till the research group discovered it.

The researchers took the help of an AI system named Recommender Engine For Intelligent Transient Tracking (REFITT) which looks through observations of various space and ground-based telescopes across the world. The system accidentally picked it up as a site of high activity and later analysis by the group revealed the shocking truth.

“It's absurd. If you take a typical supernova and multiply it a thousand times, we're still not at how bright this is – and supernovas are among the most luminous objects in the sky. This is the most energetic phenomenon I have ever encountered,” said Danny Milisavljevic, the co-author of the study and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University, in a statement.

A dying star burns bright

To understand how an event like Scary Barbie occurs, we have to understand how a black hole functions. A black hole, due to its high gravitational pull, drags even stellar material from stars and consumes them entirely. But during this process, the gasses near the black hole get pulled in first while the gasses at the farther end unfurl and wrap around the black hole like a noodle. The plasma accelerates and gives an extremely bright beam of light, known as a transient event.

It is believed that the event has been going on for at least 2 years or for a much longer period, unlike usual transient events which last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Interestingly, scientists could not have detected it through direct observation because the object is placed at an extremely far end of the universe. This is where the AI system came in handy.

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First Published Date: 02 May, 16:25 IST