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More Images: Star Survives Close Call with a Black Hole
Click for large jpg Illustration
& X-ray
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Click for large jpg Illustration
& X-ray
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Click for large jpg Illustration
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Click for large jpg Illustration
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Illustration of Black Hole & White Dwarf
Data from Chandra and XMM-Newton indicate that a star survived a close call with a black hole. As a red giant star approached a supermassive black hole in the galaxy GSN 069, it was caught in the black hole's gravity. Once captured, the red giant's outer layers were stripped off, leaving the core of the star — known as a white dwarf — behind. The white dwarf then enters an elliptical, 9-hour-long orbit around the black hole, as depicted in this artist's illustration. At closest approach, the black hole pulls matter from the white dwarf onto a surrounding disk.
(Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/CSIC-INTA/G.Miniutti et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss;)

Click for large jpg X-ray
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X-ray & Optical Images of GSN 069
The close-up shows the Chandra observation of the burst of X-rays caused by the transfer of this material every 9 hours. Also included is a wide field DSS optical image for context.
(Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/CSIC-INTA/G.Miniutti et al.; Optical: DSS)

Click for large jpg Orbit Illustration
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Schematic Showing White Dwarf Orbit
A schematic diagram showing an almost complete orbit of the white dwarf around the black hole at the center of the figure. The white dwarf is depicted in blue and the path and direction of the orbit in white. If drawn to scale, the white dwarf would be too small to see. The black hole is surrounded by a disk of material (depicted in orange and red) falling towards it. Every time the white dwarf approaches close to the black hole, some material is pulled off the star into the disk, causing a burst of X-rays observed by Chandra and XMM-Newton. An effect from General Relativity causes precession, changing the angle of the loops in the orbit by about 70 degrees as the white dwarf passes the black hole. The orientation of the figure is shown so that the different loops are shown almost edge-on. If shown face-on, the orbital loops would still appear to be oval-shaped, but would not be as narrow.
(Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

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