Astronomers have shed new light on the mystery of how supermassive black holes get so big.

For the first time they believe they have spotted a ‘star swallowing’ event.

In February 2017, the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae discovered the dramatic change, an event known as AT 2017 bgt. 

This event was initially believed to be a ‘star swallowing’ event, or a ‘tidal disruption’ event, because the radiation emitted around the black hole grew more than 50 times brighter than what had been observed in 2004.

However, after extensive observations using a multitude of telescopes, researchers now believe it is an entirely new way of ‘feeding’ black holes.

‘The sudden brightening of AT 2017bgt was reminiscent of a tidal disruption event,’ says Dr. Benny Trakhtenbrot of Tel Aviv University, who led the research, published today in Nature Astronomy 

‘But we quickly realized that this time there was something unusual. 

‘The first clue was an additional component of light, which had never been seen in tidal disruption events.’

Dr. Arcavi, who led the data collection, adds, ‘We followed this event for more than a year with telescopes on Earth and in space, and what we saw did not match anything we had seen before.’

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