Scientists observed a rare burst of light from a star when it was eaten by a black hole.
The unusual “event at high tide” was seen in telescopes around the world. It appeared as a bright burst of energy, the closest of its kind ever recorded, just 215 million light-years away.
Such events occur when a star approaches too close to a black hole and is attracted by its extreme gravity.
While the star is being sucked in, it goes through a process called “spaghetti”, in which the star breaks into thin strips, some of which fall into the black hole.
When this happens, a burst of energy is triggered that takes off into the universe, allowing the process to be observed by distant astronomers.
“The idea of a black hole sucking a nearby star sounds like science fiction. But that̵
They were able to observe it through telescopes around the world – the European Southern Observatory’s very large telescope and new technology telescope, the Las Cumbres Observatory’s global telescope network and Neil Guerrell’s fast satellite – became brighter in six months and then disappeared.
Such a view is usually not possible, as dust and debris can mask events with tides, which are already very rare. This made it very difficult to investigate the nature of the eruption that broke out.
“When a black hole engulfs a star, it can fire a powerful explosion of material that obstructs our view,” said Samantha Oates, also of the University of Birmingham. “This is because the energy released when the black hole eats up stellar material pushes the debris out of the star.”
Astronomers were able to see this one, called AT2019qiz, with better details than ever, because it was discovered soon after the star broke.
“Several studies of the sky found the emission from the new tidal event very quickly after the star was torn,” said Thomas Wevers, an ESO Fellow in Santiago, Chile, who was at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, UK. when he conducts the work. “We immediately pointed a set of ground and space telescopes in that direction to see how light is produced.”
This allowed them to see and better understand both the torch and the debris that would normally envelop it.
For the first time, astronomers were able to observe the ultraviolet, optical, X-ray and radio light that came out of the event and see a direct link between the material from the star and the bright eruption emitted when it was swallowed by the black hole.
“Observations have shown that the star has about the same mass as our own Sun and that it has lost about half of that of the black hole, which is over a million times more massive,” said Nicole, who is also a visiting researcher at the University of Edinburgh.
They could also watch the cloud of debris rise and obscure the process, another unprecedented sight.
“Because we caught it early, we could actually see the curtain of dust and debris close when the black hole launched a powerful material leak at speeds of up to 10,000 km / s,” said Kate Alexander, a NASA fellow at Einstein Northwestern University. in USA. “This unique ‘peek behind the curtain’ provided the first opportunity to determine the origin of the blackout material and to track in real time how it absorbs the black hole.”