Black hole spied ripping apart, then spewing, star that got too close

Mindy Sparks
June 16, 2018

The nearly decade-long study by a team of global astronomers have captured jets of stellar material spewed from the black hole as it consumed the trapped star for the first time.

Beware of the hungry black hole.

This supermassive black hole is reportedly 20 million times bigger compared to the sun, while the star is over twice as large as the sun. It looks like a heavenly body emits a flash of light at the moment when it is torn apart by the gravitational field of a supermassive black hole.

Only a few weeks back, reports emerged of the fastest expanding black hole ever seen, eating several stars every week, but even then, the actual event of star eating was not directly captured through telescopes.

And it took a long time for the team to get the full data on the TDE as it was all happening.

The decade-long observations uncovered that the particles were flying off into space at almost 25 percent the speed of light, which further confirmed their source as a superfast jet released from a tidal disruption event.

A star has been spotted being gobbled up by a black hole after it wandered too close to the gravity of the dark maw.

"As time passed, the new object stayed bright at infrared and radio wavelengths, but not in visible light and X-rays", said Seppo Mattila, of the University of Turku in Finland in a statement.

However, the widely theorized phenomenon wasn't observed until scientists used radio and infrared telescopes to track and image this particular event in a pair of colliding galaxies known as Arp 299. The galaxy in question is actually two galaxies colliding, so the region known as Arp 299 is rich with supernovae.

Most of the time "supermassive black holes are not actively devouring anything, so they are in a quiet state", Perez-Torres explained.

Such events may have been more common in the distant Universe, so studying them may help scientists understand the environment in which galaxies developed billions of years ago.

The scientists triangulated their observations over the course of a decade using far-flung radio telescope antennas and other observational tools such as the Very Long Baseline Array of the National Science Foundation, the European VLBI Network, the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands, the William Herschel Telescope and the Spitzer space telescope run by NASA.

They are called tidal disruption events (TDEs).

In the beginning, the researchers believed that the bright object was because of a supernova. But observations implied that the angle of the jet to Earth, combined with the orientation of the dust disk surrounding the black hole, was instead a TDE. Only in 2011, six years after discovery, the radio-emitting portion began to show an elongation. But it also provides clues that may lead us to more tidal disruption events.

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