NASA’s Swift space observatory recently caught glimpses of how a voracious black hole rips star apart when the latter gets to close to it. The observations were confirmed by data gathered by two other orbiting observatories.
A team of researchers were able to capture the exact moment when the black hole spews back cosmic material after feasting on a star. The black hole is located at the core of a galaxy which is 290 million light years from our planet.
The recent findings help scientists understand more about how life nearby an active black hole really is. Swift was the perfect telescope for the job because it can capture events that unwind too fast for other instruments to capture them.
John Nousek, the lead author of the study and researcher at Penn State, explained that the event happened around a supermasive black hole, which is a few million times heavier that our star.
The galaxy which hosts the black hole is dubbed PGC 043234. Researchers added that the recent findings are a rare evidence of what tidal disruption can do to a star that is unfortunate enough to get close to a supermassive black hole.
Tidal disruption occurs when the huge gravitational pull of the black hole shreds the star apart. While some of the star’s debris is expelled into space, the rest is engulfed by the black hole, which instead emits a powerful x-ray shower. The recently documented tidal disruption was called “ASASSN-14li.”
The material engulfed by black holes is usually ‘cooked’ at millions so degrees, a process that results in huge amounts of X-ray radiation. The radiation is seen as flares that can last up to a few years. After the x-ray radiation get dimmer, the black hole returns to its initial state since light can no longer escape from it.
Scientists have known for long that cosmic debris ends up into nearby black holes, but how exactly the events debuted was largely unknown. In ASASSN-14li case, researchers were able to have a live view of how the disk of X-ray radiation emerges around a black hole.
A research paper on the cosmic event was published Oct 22 in the journal Nature.
The other two space telescopes that confirmed the findings were NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory and ESA/NASA’s XMM-Newton observatory. Data collected by the trio of scopes helped NASA gather the final pieces of an astronomical puzzle which is both violent and beautiful.
ASASSN-14li, however, was first detected in November 2014.
Image Source: Wikimediar
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