Astronomers have witnessed a rare astro-light show in which a star is “stretched into spaghella” by a black hole,media New Atlas reported. The event occurred more than 200 million light-years from Earth and lasted six months, when dying stars were torn to pieces by a huge gravitational force.
A black hole is a notoriously “greedy” object that can devour anything that wanders near its amazing gravity. Nor would it be a rapid and neat death — because the intensity and distance of force are directly related, the part of the object facing the black hole is subjected to much more gravity than the far side. As a result, the cerial body will be emenated like spaghee — so it’s called spaghide, even though it’s scientifically known as tidal destruction events (TDEs).
Stars are objects that can encounter this fate, and these events are detected periodically, act as bright flashes, and then disappear within a few months or so. The problem is that astronomers often have a hard time studying what happens in the process — the energy released when matter falls into a black hole sends dust and debris flying outwards, blocking the view. But in this new event, named AT2019qiz, astronomers managed to see the process from its early stages.
“Because we discovered it early on, we could actually see the curtain of dust and debris pulled up because the black hole emitted a powerful exoded material at speeds of up to 10,000 kilometers per second,” said Kate Alexander, author of the study. “This unique ‘behind-the-scenes peep’ gives us the first opportunity to pinpoint the source of the masking material and track in real time how it devours the black hole.”
Astronomers used the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the New Technology Telescope (NTT) to observe the star over a six-month period using ultraviolet and optical light, X-rays and radio waves. Observations show for the first time that flares of light are directly related to the flow of matter on the star. It also shows that stars have roughly the same mass as the sun, while black holes have a mass of more than a million suns.
The researchers hope the observations will help them explain what happened in future observations of these tidal destruction events.
The study was published in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society.