Black hole slaughtering a star! Know what is Scary Barbie, the object discovered by AI


The universe is filled with mysteries far beyond the understanding of humans. With every new discovery, we learn a little more about our vast neighborhood. And the more we learn, we realize how little we actually know. Earlier, astronomers believed that the most luminous or brightest cosmic objects were supernova events. But the latest discovery of a black hole destroying a star has rendered their knowledge useless. This cosmic object is still being measured in terms of energy and so far, it is more intense and shines brighter than a 1000 supernova combined together. The most interesting part is that astronomers would never have been able to find this entity if it was not for artificial intelligence or AI.

The study was uploaded to the preprint server arXiv and it has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The group unearthed the event from mass telescope data which had not been analyzed for years. The event was named ZTF20abrbeie during its initial observation and then was neglected till the research group discovered it.

The researchers took the help of an AI system named Recommender Engine For Intelligent Transient Tracking (REFITT) which looks through observations of various space and ground-based telescopes across the world. The system accidentally picked it up as a site of high activity and later analysis by the group revealed the shocking truth.

“It’s absurd. If you take a typical supernova and multiply it a thousand times, we’re still not at how bright this is – and supernovas are among the most luminous objects in the sky. This is the most energetic phenomenon I have ever encountered,” said Danny Milisavljevic, the co-author of the study and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University, in a statement.

A dying star burns bright

To understand how an event like Scary Barbie occurs, we have to understand how a black hole functions. A black hole, due to its high gravitational pull, drags even stellar material from stars and consumes them entirely. But during this process, the gasses near the black hole get pulled in first while the gasses at the farther end unfurl and wrap around the black hole like a noodle. The plasma accelerates and gives an extremely bright beam of light, known as a transient event.

It is believed that the event has been going on for at least 2 years or for a much longer period, unlike usual transient events which last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Interestingly, scientists could not have detected it through direct observation because the object is placed at an extremely far end of the universe. This is where the AI system came in handy.


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