The star being destroyed by a black hole was 10 million times the mass of our Sun.
A number of NASA telescopes have observed an enormous black hole destroying a star that came too close. It was 10 million times the mass of our Sun. This was the 5th-closest example of a black hole eating a star ever observed.
Observing the destruction of a star by a black hole serves a big purpose for humanity. Information can be used to better understand what happens to material that’s captured by these stars before being fully depleted. A black hole destroying a star is also known as a “tidal disruption event”
When a star wanders too close to a black hole, the intense gravity will stretch the star out until it comes to be a long river of hot gas.
The gas is then blown away around the black hole and is slowly pulled into orbit, forming a bright disk around the black hole.
The focus of this new image is an event called AT2021ehb, which took place in a galaxy with a central black hole. During this tidal disruption event, the side of the star nearest the black hole was pulled harder than the far side of the star, extending the entire thing apart and vacating nothing but a long noodle of hot gas.
Scientists think that the stream of gas gets whipped around a black hole during such events, colliding with itself. The event was first spotted on March 1, 2021, by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), located at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California.
Then, around 300 days after the event was first spotted, NASA’s NuSTAR began observing the system. Scientists were surprised when NuSTAR detected a corona – a cloud of hot plasma, or gas atoms with their electrons stripped away – since coronae usually appear with jets of gas that flow in opposite directions from a black hole.
“We’ve never seen a tidal disruption event with X-ray emission like this without a jet present, and that’s really spectacular because it means we can potentially disentangle what causes jets and what causes coronae,” said Yuhan Yao, a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and lead author of the new study.
More tidal disruption events have been identified and are being observed with telescopes like Swift, NICER, and NuSTAR.