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The star dies from “spaghettification” as it is consumed by the supermassive black hole

Astronomers have witnessed an extremely rare event: the end of a star’s life, as it is erased by a supermassive black hole. And the collapse of this particular star was even more unique, because it suffered death by “spaghettification” – and no, it’s not science fiction.

According to a new study published in Monthly Notice of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomers at the Zwicky Transient Facility have identified a burst of light, known as a tidal disruption event, which indicated the star’s death in September 2019. The researchers said this week which was the closest such phenomenon to ever occur on Earth, just over 21

5 million light years away.

“The idea of ​​a black hole ‘sucking in’ a nearby star sounds like science fiction. But that’s exactly what happens in a tidal disruption event,” said lead author Matt Nicholl, of the University of Birmingham in the UK. United

Using the telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), scientists were able to investigate in unprecedented detail exactly what happens when a star is devoured by a black hole “monster”. They said the star had approximately the same mass as the sun, about half of which was lost in the black hole, which is over a million times larger. The other half was simultaneously ejected outward into space.

During this violent spaghettification process, the long, thin filaments of material that make up the star collapse in the intense gravity of a black hole – which basically swallows it like stellar spaghetti. The event releases a brilliant burst of energy that can be detected by astronomers.

This illustration shows a star (foreground) that undergoes spaghettification as it is sucked into a supermassive black hole (background) during a tidal break event.

ESO / M. Kornmesser

“When an unfortunate star gets too close to a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy, the black hole’s extreme gravitational pull destroys the star in thin streams of material,” said co-author Thomas Wevers, an ESO Fellow in Santiago. Chile.

In the past, these flares have often been obscured by the explosion of dust and debris, making them difficult to study. But this time the astronomers got lucky.

This tidal outage event, called AT2019qiz, was found right after the event, making it much easier to observe. The researchers studied AT2019qiz, located in a spiral galaxy in the constellation Eridanus, for six months as the glow grew brighter and brighter before fading.

Death by spaghettificazione: artistic animation of a star sucked into a black hole of
Southern European Observatory (ESO) on

“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 at speeds of up to 10,000 km / s,” said Kate Alexander, Einstein Fellow of the NASA at Northwestern University.

“This unique ‘peek behind the scenes’ provided the first opportunity to pinpoint the origin of the obscuring material and follow in real time how it envelops the black hole.”

The astronomers said their observations showed, for the first time, the direct connection between the dust and debris emitted by the star and the bright glow that occurs when it is devoured by the black hole. They hope that AT2019qiz can act as the “Rosetta Stone”, helping them interpret future tidal disruption events and deepen our understanding of the mysterious world of black holes.

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