Simma Sky: Black Holes and November Nights

TESS spots its first black hole

Simma Sky: Black Holes and November Nights

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — TESS continues to make headlines in the Astronomical community. Scientists published findings at the end of September showing how TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite) observed a black hole tearing apart a star. That's CRAZY, y'all. Insane. Apparently that process of destroying a star is called a "tidal disruption event." So let's talk about it.

When a star strays too close to a black hole, intense tides break it apart into a stream of gas. The tail of the stream escapes the system, while the rest of it swings back around, surrounding the black hole with a disk of debris. Photo Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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Black Holes Not what it sounds like. When you hear about black holes, the first thought is typically something along the lines of "nothing" or "not much there." It's actually full of mass. There's a lot there. NASA describes black holes like this: "A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space." That's crazy, right?? Not even light can escape black holes. Because they kind of remove light...you can't see black holes themselves. But scientists can study how planets, stars and other space objects orbit around and are pulled toward black holes - so that's how they determine where they are. Black holes can be big and small, and it's a little hard to comprehend. "Supermassive black holes" are ones that have a mass equal to 4 million suns. 4 MILLION SUNS. Woah.

An artist's drawing shows the current view of the Milky Way galaxy. Scientific evidence shows that in the middle of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole. Photo Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech

November Night Sky

We get to see the Beaver Full Moon on Tuesday, November 12. The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks on November 18 - look up and to the east at night!

Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion, dots a backwards question mark of stars known as the Sickle. If you trace all the Leonid meteors backward, they appear to radiate from this area of the sky. Photo courtesy