“Pac-man” in space: black hole eats neutron star

This means that all three types of events on the gravitational wave researchers’ "wish list" have now been observed: the merger of two black holes, the collision of two neutron stars and how a black hole eats a neutron star, according to the australian national university (ANU) in canberra, which was involved in the study.

"About 900 million years ago, this black hole ate a very dense star, a so-called neutron star, like pac-man – and possibly wiped out the star on the spot," susan scott, head of the ANU’s general relativity theory and data analysis group, said in the release.

In the classic video game pac-man, a hockey-puck-shaped figure eats his way through a maze and eats up dots. Like the points of pac-man, the neutron star was probably swallowed whole by the black hole and not torn apart beforehand, as one would expect, scott explained on request. A pulverizing star should emit light or other radiation as it swirls into the black hole.

Neutron stars are the extremely dense "corpses" of burned-out suns. A teeloffel of neutron star matter weighs about a billion tons. Officially, however, the event is still considered a candidate for a neutron star merger with a black hole. Researchers currently estimate the probability of such an event to be 99.8 percent.

"Scientists have never discovered a black hole smaller than five solar masses or a neutron star with more than 2.5 times the mass of our sun," explained scott. "Based on this experience, we are very confident that we have just located a black hole that is swallowing a neutron star."

However, the exact masses of the observed objects have yet to be determined. "There exists the small but intriguing possibility that the engulfed object is a very light black hole – much lighter than any other black hole we know of in the universe," scott pointed out. "This would be a fantastic consolation prize."

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