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Could Black Holes Consume Stars From Within?

Black holes may enter into stars and consume them from the inside, according to new research by Serguei Komissarov and Maxim Barkov of the University of Leeds. The idea has been suggested as a way to explain observed gamma-ray bursts that can last for hours at a time.

Scientists at the University of Leeds in England instead suggest the matter that falls into black holes can generate extremely powerful magnetic forces that focus and drive the plasma jets linked with long gamma-ray bursts. The matter has to whirl very rapidly, with the centrifugal forces caused by this spin opposing the powerful gravitational pull of the black hole, for the prolonged blast seen in long gamma-ray bursts.

The researchers found one way such whirling matter could result is if a black hole plunged into a star and began eating it from the inside. As the black hole ripped the star apart, its remains could twirl apart in precisely the right way needed for a long gamma-ray burst.

"This 'invader variant' provides a natural explanation of the very fast rotation," researcher Serguei Komissarov.

For science fiction fans, this is not a new idea. In his 1980 book Dragon's Egg, physicist and sf writer Robert L. Forward described a case of "solar indigestion."

The information gathered had shown that the Sun had a case of indigestion. It had eaten too many black holes.

The scientists found an extremely periodic fluctuation in the strength of the Sun's polar magnetic field... It was finally concluded that the Sun had four dense masses, probably miniature primordial black holes, orbiting around each other deep inside the sun. These disturbed the Sun's normal fusion equilibrium by gnawing away at its bowels...

Komissarov and his colleague Maxim Barkov detailed their findings in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Via Space.com; special thanks to Randall Glenn for writing in with the tip and reference for this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/23/2009)

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