Science

Black hole swallowing and ripping apart star captured for first time

Black hole swallowing and ripping apart star captured for first time”

Astronomers used an global network of telescopes to detect the phenomenon before turning to TESS, whose permanent viewing zones created to hunt distant planets caught the beginning of the violent event, proving effective its unique method of surveilling the cosmos.

In order to find exoplanets, TESS is surveying stars - and that's how it found the aftermath of a violent encounter.

TESS already happened to be monitoring the exact part of the sky where the ASAS-SN telescope discovered the tidal disruption event.

Over the course of two years, the four wide-field cameras on board will stare at different sectors of the sky for days at a time.

The US space agency's orbiting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) revealed the star 375 million light-years away warping and spiralling into the unrelenting gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole. The destroyed star may have been similar in size to our sun.

By their very nature, black holes swallow up light that gets too close, and the best (and, so far, only) image we've seen of an actual black hole still leaves a lot to the imagination. Some of the material is shot out into space.

It's known as a tidal disruption event, or TDE.

They're also extremely rare, only occurring once every 10,000 to 100,000 years. And observing them is extremely hard.

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Illustration of a "star-shredding" black hole from a NASA animation.

On April 11, the world was stunned when the Event Horizon Telescope released the first ever image of a black hole.

The observations were published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal.

"TESS data let us see exactly when this destructive event, named ASASSN-19bt, started to get brighter, which we've never been able to do before", said Thomas Holoien, a Carnegie Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, who earned his PhD at Ohio State. "This makes ASASSN-19bt the new poster child for TDE research".

"I was actually observing at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory on the night of the discovery", Holoien added. "Because we identified the tidal disruption quickly with the ground-based All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), we were able to trigger multiwavelength follow-up observations in the first few days".

This image highlights and explains various aspects of the black hole visualization. The galaxy containing this star contains more dust than other events like this and the star had a short period where it faded and cooled off before reaching its peak.

Unlike other TDEs, ASASSN-19bt also showed a temperature drop was seen early during the tidal disruption - also a first.

"It was once thought that all TDEs would look the same". "More early-time observations of these events may help us answer some of these lingering questions".



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