Scientists have grabbed a shocking image of a massive black hole brutally tearing up a star, depicting a phenomenal and wild cosmic event from its beginning to its end for the first time. The image was captured by a NASA telescope whose aim is to hunt for planets.
The space agency’s orbiting TESS, or Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, unveiled the comprehensive chronology of a star located 375 million light-years away. The star’s timeline is seen deflecting and coiling into the gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole, scientists explained on Thursday.
Having a slightly similar size as our Sun, the star was ultimately devoured by the giant black hole. This marks a rare cosmic circumstance that researchers call a tidal disruption event.
A Doomed Star Warps Into Oblivion
Astronomers utilized an international array of telescopes to spot the occurrence before switching to TESS’s capabilities. TESS’ permanent viewing areas are created to search for distant planets, and captured the beginning of the fierce event, proving efficient its exceptional technique of monitoring the cosmos.
Such an exceptional event occurs when a star endeavors too close to a supermassive black hole. These giant black holes are objects located at the nucleus of most large galaxies, including our Milky Way. The black hole’s unrelenting gravitational pull rips a star to pieces, with some of its elements dumped into space and the rest collapsing into the black hole, forming a disk of hot and bright gas as it is devoured.
Monitoring the fluctuation of light as the black hole absorbs the star and ejects stellar material in an outward spiral could help scientists understand the object’s behavior. This is a scientific enigma since physicist Albert Einstein’s studies over a century ago observed gravity’s effect on light in motion.
The astronomer who led the research is Thomas Holoien from the Carnegie Institution for Science. The discovery was published in the Astrophysical Journal.