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Telescopes captures supermassive black hole devouring star

Date: 14 October 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

Astronomers have captured the moment a supermassive black hole shredded a star the size of our Sun.

 

Background

Scientists were able to monitor light flaring from the process, known as a tidal disruption event, from a black hole just over 215 million light years Earth using telescopes from the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

 

Details

  • They observed the star being physically torn apart as it was sucked into the black hole's giant maw.

  • When a star strays too close to a supermassive black hole, it is subjected to the phenomenal strength of the black hole's gravity.

  • The star can be physically torn apart and its matter pulled into long strings, a process known as “spaghettification”.

  • When these forces exceed the star's cohesive force, the star loses pieces that rush into the black hole.

  • This exceptional influx of matter produces intense electromagnetic emissions, which last for several months while the debris is digested.

  • While other tidal disruption events have previously been observed, the powerful burst of light they emit are often obscured by a curtain of dust and debris.

  • Because they discovered the event just a short time after the star was ripped apart the team were able to pinpoint how the obscuring debris forms.

  • The discovery would help scientists to better understand how matter behaves in the extreme gravity environments surrounding supermassive black holes.

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