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Astronomers observe the star being “spaghetted” by a supermassive black hole

Artist's impression of a spaghetted star near a supermassive black hole.

Artist’s impression of a spaghetted star near a supermassive black hole.
Image: ESO

A star 215 million light years away has been obliterated by a supermassive black hole, making it the closest observation to date of stellar spaghettification.

Spaghetti making doesn’t sound very scientific, but it’s a fairly accurate description of what actually happens.

A doomed star caught in the orbit of a supermassive black hole will eventually hit some sort of gravitational weak point that turns everything into shit. No longer able to maintain its physical integrity, the star begins to rapidly collapse in a process known as a rapidly changing tidal disruption event. When this happens, stellar debris escapes the star, forming a long, thin stream, half of which is sucked into the black hole; the other half is sent back into space. The subtle flow eventually reaches and bumps into itself, releasing energy and forming an accretion disk. If it’s hard to see, here’s a file video showing the process:

The destruction produces a brilliant flash of light, which astronomers can observe on Earth. Some of these events are recorded every year, but new Research published in the Royal Astronomical Society’s monthly notices describes the closest case of stellar spaghettification ever recorded, 215 million light years away. The event, designated AT2019qiz, was documented last year and appeared in the center of a spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Eridanus. The unfortunate star was about the same size as our Sun, and was torn apart by a supermassive black hole roughly 1 million times the mass of the Sun.

The event was initially captured by the Zwicky Transient Facility, with follow-up observations made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, ESO’s New Technology Telescope, and the Harvard and Smithsonian MMT Observatory, among others. structures. Astronomers followed the fading glow for six months. The new paper was led by Matt Nicholl, a researcher at the University of Birmingham.

Noodle stars tend to be difficult to study because they are often clouded by copious amounts of dust and debris. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with AT2019qiz.

The researchers found that, “when a black hole devours a star, it can launch a powerful explosion of material outward that obstructs our view,” explained Samantha Oates, an astronomer at the University of Birmingham, in an ESO. declaration. In this case, however, AT2019qiz was spotted shortly after the star was torn apart, providing a clear view of the phenomenon.

“Because we spotted it early, we could actually see the curtain of dust and debris rising as the black hole launched a powerful outflow of material with speeds up to 10,000 km / s [6,200 miles/second]”Study co-author and Northwestern University astronomer Kate Alexander said in a Harvard & Smithsonian Press release. “This is a unique ‘peek behind the scenes’ that provided the first opportunity to pinpoint the origin of the obscuring material and follow in real time how it envelops the black hole.”

Illustration for the article titled Astronomers Observe Star Being Spaghettified by a Supermassive Black Hole

This allowed the scientists to detect gas outflow as the star was torn to shreds and its stellar material shot towards the black hole. This event, which was captured in optical, X-ray, ultraviolet and radio spectra, will now provide an excellent case study for the ways in which matter behaves around supermassive black holes.

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