Astronomers Watch Black Hole Violently Destroy a Star

first_img What happens in outer space tends to stay in outer space.But astronomers made a recent breakthrough, capturing the very moment a black hole destroyed a nearby star.For the first time, scientists managed to record the moment the gravity of a supermassive black hole ripped apart a star that drifted too close.AdChoices广告The tidal disruption event, as reported by the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics, occurred in a pair of colliding galaxies called Arp 299—some 150 million light-years from Earth.At the core of one of the galaxies, a black hole 20 million times more massive than our Sun shredded a star more than twice the Sun’s mass.The astronomical phenomenon occurs when a star gets sufficiently close to a supermassive black hole’s event horizon, and is pulled apart by the black hole’s tidal forces, experiencing spaghettification (and yes, that is the scientific term).Think of it as one human invading the personal space of another, much larger, human, and getting beaten to a pulp as punishment.Researchers tracked the violent encounter via multiple radio and infrared telescopes around the world, including the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory.“This is a fantastic discover[y] and an extremely important result in astronomy,” co-investigator Rob Beswick, of the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement. “It is a testament to the persistence of the science team and demonstrates the power of globally coordinated [interferometer] observations.”Tidal disruption events such as this may help scientists understand the environment in which galaxies developed billions of years ago.It’s been a long and winding road, however, since the initial discovery in early 2005, when astronomers spotted a bright burst of infrared emission coming from the nucleus of one of the colliding galaxies in Arp 299.Six months later, the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) revealed a new, distinct source of radio emission from the same location.Researchers managed to follow the object’s infrared emission over the next decade, showing the source of radio emission expanding in one direction at an average of one-quarter the speed of light.“The discovery came as a surprise,” Beswick said. “The initial infrared burst was discovered as part of a project that sought to detect supernova explosions in such colliding pairs of galaxies.“Arp 299 has seen numerous stellar explosions, and has been dubbed a ‘supernova factory,’” he explained. “This new object originally was considered to be a supernova explosion.”It was only in 2011—six years after detection—that the team was able to confirm what they saw was a jet, not a supernova.“Never before have we been able to directly observe the formation and evolution of a jet from one of these events,” according to Miguel Perez-Torres, of the Astrophysical Institute of Andalucia in Granada, Spain. “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.”Beswick & Co.’s findings have been published in the journal Science.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target Scientists Find ‘Hungry’ Supermassive Black Hole Eating 3 Meals DailyScientists Behind First Black Hole Image Win $3 Million Prize last_img

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