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Black Hole Swallows Star 166

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the put-it-in-yer-mouth dept.
Thorfinn.au writes "The New Scientist writes a conjectural piece to explain the light pattern of SCP 06F6 in what was first identified as a supernova — but observations show a skewed and stretched light curve not fitting with an current theoretical explanation of exploding stars. Also, the discussion in the comments is interesting."
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Black Hole Swallows Star

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:43AM (#28250257)

    and you couldn't summarize the "discussion in the comments" in the summary because...

    • by stupid_is (716292) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:49AM (#28250351) Homepage
      Probably cos it mostly now reads:

      This comment breached our terms of use and has been removed.

      • To be fair, half of those comments were sarcastic.
      • by mcgrew (92797)

        I can see why the article had so many "breached terms of service" posts, considering the title "Black 'ho swallows star". That sounds like a porn movie.

    • Aside from all the "This comment breached our terms of use and has been removed" messages, most of the comments are by kooks or people who clearly misunderstood the article (like the guy who saw a 2s flare in Delphinus).

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by BLQWME (791611)
        I know there is a hemmorhoid joke in here somewhere.
      • by OldSoldier (168889) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:33AM (#28251597)

        One of the comments I like is the fellow who complains that:

        So called scientific "facts" such as, black holes, big bang, stretched space, warped space, spacetime and so on,are merely flawed mathematical constructs. They have never been observed

        What always strikes me with these sort of comments is the underlying belief that scientists are hiding something from the rest of us. Don't these posters realize that they're complaining about this "supposed conspiracy theory" in an article where scientists are openly admitting that they saw something they don't understand?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by czarangelus (805501)
          The thing is, they DIDN'T see a black hole swallowing a star. They saw a massive burst of radiation. But they describe NOT what they actually observed, but their interpretation of what they observed instead. Are there no other possible sources for massive bursts of radiation than black holes swallowing stars? Given the aberrant numbers of high energy particles entering our star system, I would say it's premature indeed. Same with the neutron stars, or pulsars allegedly being stars that "rotate faster than
          • by profplump (309017)

            If they just told us what they saw and not what they think it might be they'd simply be talking telescopes, not scientists. It's also disingenuous to suggest that they aren't publishing the original observations for third-party analysis -- they just aren't publishing those observations in the press release.

          • The scientists gave a number of possible interpretations. The journalist who wrote the article, or his editor, picked the most interesting-sounding explanation for the thrust of the article.

            I think anyone familiar with Slashdot summaries should be aware of this distinction.

          • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:50PM (#28252559) Homepage

            Same with the neutron stars, or pulsars allegedly being stars that "rotate faster than dentist drills." The impossible is far more likely than the improbable.

            And... what's so improbable about a massive and extremely dense object spinning rapidly, vs an even more massive but much less dense object spinning at a rate that is proportionally slower?

            I'd say that the impossible, in this case violating Conservation of Angular Momentum, is usually what is far more improbable.

          • by stevelinton (4044) <sal@dcs.st-and.ac.uk> on Monday June 08, 2009 @01:37PM (#28253177) Homepage

            The article does say that someone has proposed this as the best fit to the details of the observed data, while someone has proposed something else (a massive supernova of a star surrounded by carbon dust). Dozens of other possibilities probably got considered and rejected before making the article. If you read the actual scientific papers they will likely consider many more alternatives and explain in detail why they don't fit what's observed. They will also describe in detail

            If you want the raw details you need to read the papers and be prepared for some maths (in which they work out which theories fit the data and which don't). The idea that pulsars are neutron stars, for instance, emerged over several years and was confirmed as the predictions it made about what kinds of patterns would, and wouldn't be seen in pulsar radiation panned out. Many other ideas fell by the wayside.

            The real data is published and discussed, multiple interpretations are considered, but in scholarly articles, not in press releases.

          • Quoting this for your attention just in case (once again) your filter software fails to pick up on a communication whose existence your Guild would prefer to ignore:

            The thing is, they DIDN'T see a black hole swallowing a star. They saw a massive burst of radiation. But they describe NOT what they actually observed, but their interpretation of what they observed instead. Are there no other possible sources for massive bursts of radiation than black holes swallowing stars? Given the aberrant numbers of high energy particles entering our star system, I would say it's premature indeed. Same with the neutron stars, or pulsars allegedly being stars that "rotate faster than dentist drills."

            Can it be any more clear that the indigenous technosavvies of this backward planet are about to see through the ruses you have been feeding them, and recognize the artifacts of your warp ship accelerations for what they are? How long do you think you can preserve that foolish fiction of a "Hubble Constant Universe" you've been encouraging them t

          • by bhiestand (157373) *

            The impossible is far more likely than the improbable.

            I don't think that word means what you think it means.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by AlecC (512609)

          And nobody has actually seen an electron, a nucleus, a photon outside the visible spectrum, the other side of the moon... We infer most of the things we have "seen" from instrument readings. Of course, the body of different measurements for the electron is much greater than it is for, say, dark matter, so we have a higher confidence level in the former. But there is no qualitative difference between the two, or the other quoted things, merely the size of the pile of evidence. And even some of those things a

          • by stevelinton (4044)

            Basically correct, but people have seen the other side of the moon directly. Only about 30 people all told, but they have seen it.

        • I don't know about any others, but I *always* hide my flawed mathematical constructs from others. That is, when they're not hiding from me...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We're next! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      Probably a joke, but if there are free-floating black-holes flying around, and we happened to be unlucky enough, we could be gone just like that, and there ain't nothing we could conceivably do about it.

  • by null etc. (524767) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:47AM (#28250315)
    I guess Samantha Carter's plan worked!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Thank god we didn't listen to McKay.

  • by wjh31 (1372867) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:48AM (#28250333) Homepage
    over 50% of black holes in the western hemisphere are clinically obese. It's though that the high availability and low cost of stars is to blame. Ejection of gas is one of the many unfortunate side-effects.
  • But wouldn't a roving black hole produce a tell-tale roving gravitational lensing?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wjh31 (1372867)
      gravitational lensing happens on the scale of galaxies and galaxy clusters.
    • Re:I'm not scientist (Score:4, Informative)

      by Xeriar (456730) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:10AM (#28250577) Homepage

      But wouldn't a roving black hole produce a tell-tale roving gravitational lensing?

      Only if you were extremely close by or got a perfect lineup. The former, we could probably notice out to a significant fraction of a light year or so if we were watching the sky.

      The latter case is rather problematic, as it would be hard to distinguish a black hole's lensing effect from noise - one frame you see a few photons, the next you don't. Was it a galaxy? A star? Nebula? Random noise?

      • if it's close enough, i would think you could observe it from two different places at least or many at best and figure it out that way.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      """The amount of the stretching suggests the object sits some 2 billion light years away"""

      So if the conditions are perfect and it's moving exactly sideways with respect to us, and it's moving at the speed of light (the first is unlikely, the second is impossible)) - then in a year it moves 0.00000003 degrees in our view.

      Good luck.

      Especially considering the lensing will be insignificant, since the black hole isn't a galaxy cluster.

  • by MollyB (162595) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:51AM (#28250385) Journal

    from the last paragraph of tfa:

    Gaensicke hopes one of Hubble's new cameras, the Wide Field Camera 3, which was installed on the last space shuttle mission to visit the telescope, could reveal more about the object's origins. The camera may be able to spot a host galaxy around the object that was too faint to see with other instruments.

    As our instrumentation improves, we'll probably have many more head-scratching discoveries...

    • Heh. The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know...Unless you're an asshole or a teenager. In the grand scheme, we're still just scratching the surface. There are so many things we do not understand.

      • Unless you're an asshole... In the grand scheme, we're still just scratching the surface.

        We're just scratching the surface of our assholes? Hey, I mean we haven't discovered any working grand unified theory yet, but at least we're TRYING!

        • by arminw (717974)

          ...Hey, I mean we haven't discovered any working grand unified theory yet, but at least we're TRYING!...

          Well at least the scientists have not yet discovered such a theory, but the theologians have. It is called the "God Theory". That theory says that God made and runs the universe whether you believe that or not. This theory is not very palatable to us philosophically, because if there REALLY is such a God, we instinctively feel responsible to him and that is discomforting because most of us want to be ind

  • by TheLeopardsAreComing (1206632) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:51AM (#28250391)
    Well unfortunately you cannot tell very much about what happens in this system ( wether it is a binary system or not) by what is happening with the light. You would have to look at the x-ray spectrum to be able to measure the kind of energies in the system. Chandra observatory is the best we can do at the moment... but it seems they still like to measure things in Crabs! But in the mean time, this would be cool to get some photo's of this happening!
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:52AM (#28250395)

    *creepy smile* black hole sun, black hole sun

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Black Hole Sun [flickr.com], won't you come
      And wash away the rain...

      It's really a beautiful piece that has to be stood next to in order to be appreciated. The sun wasn't in the right place for me to take any brilliant photos (and all I'd have had was my cellphone) but this one at least gives you a nice clear view.

      • Wow, I never did understand that bit in the polka. It might be kind of sad that in the last few Weird Al albums, I've never heard most of the original songs. I'm getting old, huh?
        • Re:90's flashback (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:14PM (#28252015)

          Wow, I never did understand that bit in the polka. It might be kind of sad that in the last few Weird Al albums, I've never heard most of the original songs. I'm getting old, huh?

          You and me both. The last Weird Al parody I've heard before he did it (talking recent music) was for Amish Paradise. I had no idea what raps All About the Pentiums and White and Nerdy were based on. I consider this to be a good thing. You know what's considered artistic in rap? Buster Rimes, he has a track on GTAIV. It's a soulful little ditty called "where my money" where he goes ranting about how he's taller than a hall of midgets and if he doesn't get his cake he's gonna kill bitches and niggas, where my fucking money?

          I'd like to think if MLK came back from the dead he'd go all Cosby and start smacking these idiots upside the head.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            I'm pretty sure that Busta has a full appreciation for the complete ridiculousness of the whole affair. He's some sort of Hip-Hop Gangsta Satire in my book. Maybe I'm wrong and whoever dresses him is the genius, I don't know.

            I do share your sentiment that it's a positive sign when you don't recognize pop culture references. I was being annoyed by the music in some store the other day and I caught myself saying to myself "Wow, that's worse than the Eighties!" Of course, as anyone knows, that's fucking imposs

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by bogjobber (880402)
            People like you make me very angry. You claim to be generally unfamiliar with popular music and rap made in the last fifteen years, and yet you somehow still think you're fit to discuss the music critically. What gives you the idea that you can speak intelligently about something you admittedly don't know a goddamn thing about?

            If you actually did pay attention, and did know what you were talking about, you would know that there is a wide range of styles and traditions in hip hop. Some are quite though
            • Wow, so touchy.

              Those of us who hate rap do not hate it in some vague theoretical fashion. I hate it because I am bombarded with it a lot. Maybe I don't know who wrote what song, and maybe I can't tell whether it is crunk or hyphy, but boy oh boy have I heard a lot of rap. I have liked maybe 2 songs total.

              I am thoroughly qualified to state my opinion that rap is garbage.

              I am similarly qualified to state that I am sick to death of classic rock. I don't have to have a fricking degree from Santana Tech a
              • by bogjobber (880402)

                Sorry if I came of touchy, but it's really irritating to hear the same thing over and over from someone outside the culture. If you don't care about hip hop, that's fine, but don't try and make dramatic, overreaching statements about a genre that is *incredibly* diverse. If you're interested in hearing a few hip hop songs outside what you may have experienced (in the interest of sharing), here's a few great tracks off the top of my head:

                Tribe Called Quest - Award Tour [youtube.com]
                Black Star - Definition [youtube.com]
                DangerDoom [youtube.com]

                • by drinkypoo (153816)

                  Massive attack is trip-hop, which is related but not a subgenre any more than rap/rock fusion (e.g. Faith No More, Kid Rock.) It's grouped more with Portishead. The common elements with Hip-Hop would be beats and turntablism.

                  • by bogjobber (880402)
                    Genres aren't that rigid though, and most "fusion" or artists with a unique sound are grouped based on the scene they're associated with rather than actual musical similarities. The difference between trip hop and "regular" instrumental hip hop is pretty miniscule. I've always believed that if the Bristol/UK trip hop scene had happened in the US it would've been much more accepted from the community. I don't know much about Bristol, but I can't imagine that there's a lot of cultural exchange between the
    • fantastic song - fantastic band.

  • by v1 (525388) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:53AM (#28250419) Homepage Journal

    Gaensicke and colleagues envision two scenarios that might explain the object. In one, a carbon-rich star gets too close to a middle- or heavy-weight black hole, which tears the star apart. Some of this material is absorbed by the black hole, and some is blasted away in a flare that was eventually seen from Earth as SCP 06F6.

    I'm not educated in astrophysics and everytime I read something like this I wonder, how does anything manage to get "blasted away" from a black hole? I was under the impression anything that got close to it was absorbed?

    • by samcan (1349105) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:57AM (#28250453)

      One possible way would be a jet of energy streaming from a rotating black hole...

      Wikipedia article. [wikipedia.org]

    • by Xeriar (456730) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:17AM (#28250665) Homepage

      I'm not educated in astrophysics and everytime I read something like this I wonder, how does anything manage to get "blasted away" from a black hole? I was under the impression anything that got close to it was absorbed?

      Simple, black holes are very messy eaters - they radiate a significant fraction of their food as photons. Keep in mind you are accelerating much of the star to a significant fraction of c, letting it collide with itself. This goes double for stellar mass black holes - you have a million+ kilometer star getting 'swallowed' by a twenty kilometer black hole. Even a perfect landing is going to result in most of the star's mass getting flung back out into space if only because the hole is smaller than the core of the star.

      • by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecrans AT gmail DOT com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @01:18PM (#28252979) Homepage

        Simple, black holes are very messy eaters - they radiate a significant fraction of their food as photons. Keep in mind you are accelerating much of the star to a significant fraction of c, letting it collide with itself. This goes double for stellar mass black holes - you have a million+ kilometer star getting 'swallowed' by a twenty kilometer black hole. Even a perfect landing is going to result in most of the star's mass getting flung back out into space if only because the hole is smaller than the core of the star.

        Simple analogy I sometimes use to explain black hole emissions in a way most people are familiar with...

        Ever flush a toilet and notice a splash that jumps above the rim? Same thing.

        While the majority of the mass gets pulled into the hole, the chaotic nature of the flow means that some mass gets ejected every which way. Depending on where you are situated, the ejected material can be quite noticeable.

    • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:23AM (#28250733) Homepage

      Anything that crosses the event horizon is absorbed. Anything that does not interacts gravitationally with the black hole as it would with any other massive object. Black holes don't have any sort of magical ability to suck things in. All they have is gravity (Well, ok. They also have charge and spin.)

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:54AM (#28251805) Homepage

        All they have is gravity (Well, ok. They also have charge and spin.)

        Amongst their properties are... I'll come in again.

      • by Khashishi (775369)

        Black holes are a bit weirder than your typical Newtonian gravity well, if you get really close. Light can orbit the black hole at 1.5 Schwarzschild radii. Closer than that, light will get "sucked in" unless it's pointed outward. Farther outside, you can drop an object with sufficient angular momentum and it will stay in orbit, but too close it will get sucked in.

    • by tjonnyc999 (1423763) <tjonnyc@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:42AM (#28250965)
      The common view that a black hole has a definite "boundary" beyond which nothing can escape, although essentially true, overlooks several important factors.
      Yes, the "event horizon" (EH) is the boundary beyond which nothing can escape the gravitational pull of the black hole.
      However, it's not a physical boundary (black holes do not have a physical surface), it's the mathematically-calculated boundary beyond which events inside the EH cannot affect an outside observer. As a particle gets closer to the EH, its chances of escape shrink to infinity, and once the EH is crossed, it's effectively gone from the outside world.
      That being said, under certain conditions, particles can be radiated outward from a black hole:
      1.) If an object inside the "photon sphere" (Schwartzchild Radius X 1.5) but still outside the EH emits photons, those photons can still escape. (Photons coming inbound are screwed, though. Approaching on a tangent, have a slim chance to "bounce off" due to rotational gain.).
      2.) If the black hole is rotating, and a particle is approaching the black hole at a tangent, it may also escape via "stealing" some of the rotational energy.
      3.) Rotating black holes also emit particles via Hawking radiation, which is more of a particle-antiparticle explanation that I want to get into here.

      So, yeah, it's sort of an issue of semantics - if you consider the zone right outside the EH a part of the black hole, then yes, things can escape from a black hole; if you take the common (and incorrect) view that a black hole has a definite "border", and discount all the fun stuff that's going on around the black hole, then no, nothing can escape.

      (Of course, this is a ridiculously simplified explanation, and I do expect at least one Slashdot astrophysicist to poke it full of holes (pun intended).)
      • by tjonnyc999 (1423763) <tjonnyc@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:52AM (#28251067)
        Oh damn, forgot to include the relativistic jet. Idioth. Anyhoo... black hole spins, drags stellar gas / dust / occasional star towards it (accretion disk, om nom nom), things spin around faster than the speed of light (yes, FTL. Objects can't move faster than speed of light, but regions of spacetime can move FTL relative to other regions), eventually the sheer rotational energy + radiation forces the particles outward in a thin jet, perpendicular to the accretion disk, which can be as long as tens of thousands of parsecs. There's enough junk flying outward, and at high enough speed, to create its own disturbance in the Force^H^H^H^H^H spacetime continuum, in addition to the screwiness created by the black hole itself.
        • by Khashishi (775369)

          Wow, someone actually used the phrase spacetime continuum outside of Star Trek! And it makes sense, too!

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:58AM (#28251153)

      Gaensicke and colleagues envision two scenarios that might explain the object. In one, a carbon-rich star gets too close to a middle- or heavy-weight black hole, which tears the star apart. Some of this material is absorbed by the black hole, and some is blasted away in a flare that was eventually seen from Earth as SCP 06F6.

      I'm not educated in astrophysics and everytime I read something like this I wonder, how does anything manage to get "blasted away" from a black hole? I was under the impression anything that got close to it was absorbed?

      Black holes gravitationally pull matter toward them like any other object with the same mass, until you're inside the event horizon, at which point there is no escape. Thus, outside the event horizon, objects will tend to orbit the black hole just as they'd orbit a star of equal mass. Over time, the orbit of gas falling into a black hole decays and the gas falls toward the singularity and its orbital velocity increases. When this happens, the volume occupied by the orbit of the gas decreases, leading to higher density gas and thus heat generated through friction and compression. This heat raises the temperature of the gas, which increases its pressure and can result in a portion of the gas being blown off into space.

      • by v1 (525388)

        until you're inside the event horizon, at which point there is no escape. Thus, outside the event horizon, objects will tend to orbit the black hole just as they'd orbit a star of equal mass.

        that would also seem to imply that nothing can orbit a black hole inside it's EH. (since the EH is basically the distance at which photons orbit the black hole, if they get any closer, they de-orbit)

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      Anything that gets too close to the black hole gets sucked in. But on the outside of the event horizon, there is still the possibility of escape. Anything that falls near a black hole gains huge kinetic energy which can't just disappear (conservation of energy). When these things collide with each other, they emit x-rays, much of which will escape.

  • by MoldySpore (1280634) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:57AM (#28250447)

    The star says "Shine shine shine!"

    The black hole says "NOM NOM NOM!!!!"

    ...Sorry, I couldn't resist.

  • The article calls it the 'firefly event'. It wasn't a black hole. It was the reavers.
  • by Laser Lou (230648) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:04AM (#28250527)

    in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

  • Ooops! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sport89 (1320659) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:14AM (#28250619)

    Looks like the inhabitants of the nearest planet just switched on their brand-new LHC...

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Looks like the former inhabitants of the nearest planet just switched on their brand-new LHC...

      I think this works better. ;-)

      Cheers

  • Now THAT's news!
  • Science (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Monday June 08, 2009 @10:42AM (#28250967) Homepage Journal

    We are in the earliest stages of undesrtanding how the universe works. For the first 8-10 thousand years we have looked what that which is in our universe and how it functions within our universe. Only in the last 3000 years have we started to look at how the universe (or if you prefer reality) itself works.

    Based on our understanding the very fundamental laws of our universe at some point has changed. The laws, as we call them, 5 seconds before the big bang may have been very different then at the time of the big bang and vastly different a billion years afterwards.

    We look to oddities like black holes to try and grasp and dredge out what additional laws that may exist to better understand how to exist within a system of laws. We must be ever so careful though as we go forward in collecting and looking at data. Who knows, perhaps we will find a white hole adding mass to our universe potentially signalling an escape from heat death or the big rip. Perhaps the graviton will be found... perhaps not.

    The question all this begs is crucial to the core of our own existence, and is the harbinger to the meaning of life. The question must be asked after observing this article:

    How could we miss an opportunity for a sexual joke with this?

    • How could we miss an opportunity for a sexual joke with this?

      Because every slashdotter knows that a black-hole spits as it swallows.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:09AM (#28251289)
    after the original. Posted less than an hour apart, right next to each other on the front page!

    Has Bing Already Overtaken Yahoo? Posted by CmdrTaco on Monday June 08, @08:54AM [slashdot.org]
    Black Hole Swallows Star Posted by CmdrTaco on Monday June 08, @09:38AM [slashdot.org]

    And Taco posted both of them. Getting old, Taco?
    • by ColaMan (37550)

      It's actually a little-known form of Hypertext lensing caused by the Slashdot Anomaly.
      Let me explain.

      The Slashdot Anomaly is a powerful attractive force on the internet, drawing in general News-For-Nerds and Stuff-That-Matters articles towards it, constantly increasing the size of its article/comments database - which is the prime generator of it's attractive force.

      If there is an article of news behind the Slashdot Anomaly (as viewed from our browsers here in front of the Anomaly) you will often see two dis

  • by imgod2u (812837) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:12AM (#28251321) Homepage

    There's nothing in the article about Paris Hilton.

  • Ambiguous (Score:4, Funny)

    by ChrisMaple (607946) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:25AM (#28251481)
    Are these black hole swallows starring in Capistrano? Are there any chickadees?
  • Bad Title (Score:4, Informative)

    by Quaoar (614366) on Monday June 08, 2009 @02:20PM (#28253695)
    Quoth the conclusion of the referenced paper:

    "These possibilities, combined with the observation that the
    disrupted object be a carbon-rich star, rather than a normal
    main sequence one appear to make the case for tidal disruption
    somewhat contrived. Nonetheless, with only one object, and
    thus an essentially unconstrained rate and space density for
    such events, it remains a possibility."

    So, while tidal disruption is a possibility, it is not the favored scenario.

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