Astronomers Directly Image Black Hole Shredding A Star

Posted: Jun 17 2018, 6:41am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 17 2018, 6:45am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Astronomers Directly Image Black Hole Shredding a Star
Artist impression of a tidal disruption event (TDE). Credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Researchers observe the formation and expansion of a fast-moving jet ejected when supermassive black hole eats a star

For the first time, astronomers have directly imaged an eruption from a supermassive black hole as it ripped apart a star. The star was wandering too close to the cosmic monster and destroyed by its intense gravitational force.

A team of astronomers observed this event in a pair of colliding galaxies that lies nearly 150 million light-years from Earth. One of the twin galaxies harbors a black hole 20 million times more massive than the Sun at its center. The black hole destroyed a star almost twice the size of the Sun when it made a close approach.

When a star comes too close to a black hole, it is ripped apart by the black hole tidal forces. These events, called tidal disruptions, pull material from the dead star and form a rotating disk around the black hole. The tidal disruption events not only emit intense X-rays and visible light but also launch jets of material outward at nearly the speed of light.

“Never before have we been able to directly observe the formation and evolution of a jet from one of these events.” Miguel Perez-Torres from Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia in Spain said.

The first observation of the star being destroyed was made on January 30, 2005, by using the William Herschel Telescope. Researchers observed a bright burst of infrared emission from the core of colliding galaxies in Arp 299. On July 17, 2005, National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) found a new radio emission from the same location. Over time, the source of radio emission expanded in one direction and emitted a fast-moving jet of material.

Tidal disruption events are rare and occur about once every 10,000 years in a typical galaxy because its central black hole is not actively consuming any material and consequently, not give off any light. The new results, however, provide researchers with the basic framework for understanding these rare events.

“Much of the time, however, supermassive black holes are not actively devouring anything, so they are in a quiet state," said Perez-Torres "Tidal disruption events can provide us with a unique opportunity to advance our understanding of the formation and evolution of jets in the vicinities of these powerful objects.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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