Science

Astronomers witness star being "turned into spaghetti" by black hole

Astronomers witness star being

Earlier this year, a team confirmed that some of the debris from the disrupted star swirls into a disc of material that feeds into the black hole, like water down a drain.

From the core of a galaxy 215 million light-years away, a splendid flash of light flared into the void of space - the last shout of light from a dying star as it veered excessively close and was pulled separated by a supermassive black hole.

To put it in simple terms, when a star passes too close by a black hole, the extreme gravitational force of the black hole shreds the star material into thin streams. The new TDE, first seen in September of a year ago and named AT2019qiz, is now helping a group drove by stargazer Matt Nicholl of the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom shed light on the source of this residue.

As the star is torn apart, some of the resulting debris spaghettifies, attenuating into a long, thin thread of material that feeds into the black hole. From that underlying flare, the TDE blurs over a time of months.

This illustration depicts a star (in the foreground) experiencing spaghettification as it's sucked in by a supermassive black hole (in the background). "But this is exactly what happens in a tidal disruption event", said Dr. Matt Nicholl, an astronomer at the University of Birmingham and the University of Edinburgh.

These events are not always easily observable as they are often obscured by dust and debris.

The researchers said that when a black hole devours a star, it launches a powerful blast of material outwards, that can obstruct our view.

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Kate Alexander, NASA Einstein Fellow at Northwestern University in the United States, said: "Because we caught it early, we could actually see the curtain of dust and debris being drawn up as the black hole launched a powerful outflow of material with velocities up to 10 000 km/s".

Astronomers' observations revealed that the star had roughly the same mass as our own Sun, losing about half of that to the monster black hole, "which is over a million times more massive", Nicholl said.

At the very least, it will help better understand supermassive black holes and how matter behaves in the extreme gravity environments around them. This time, the worldwide research team was able to study the phenomenon in unprecedented detail thanks to it being detected shortly after the star got ripped apart. "An outflow powers the optical rise of the nearby, fast-evolving tidal disruption event AT2019qiz". When an object approaches a black hole, the tidal forces become so strong that it can rip an object apart. "This is the first case in which we see direct evidence for outflowing gas during the disruption and accretion process that explains both the optical and radio emissions we've seen in the past", said astronomer Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

As of recently, the idea of these emissions has been vigorously discussed, yet here we see that the two systems are associated through a solitary cycle.

Last week a trio of scientists, Roger Penrose of Britain, Reinhard Genzel of Germany and Andrea Ghez of the USA, were awarded the Nobel Physics Prize for their research into black holes, dubbed by the Novel committee "one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe".

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The glow itself is the result of the almost inexplicable forces of gravity and friction within the filaments of the cosmic event, which consist of matter from the star. As the flare grew in luminosity and then faded away just a short time after the star was ripped apart.



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