Scientists Just Watched a Supermassive Black Hole Swallow a Star

Scientists Just Watched a Supermassive Black Hole Swallow a Star

The material around this black hole is now thought to originate from a passing star more than twice the mass of our sun, which got ripped apart by the black hole's powerful gravity.

Observed by astronomers since 2005, this event occurs in the galaxy ARP 299B, nearly 150 million light years.

Astronomers used radio and infrared telescopes while looking at a supermassive black hole. The emission was first seen in 2005. Most of the time, supermassive black holes no break off and remain virtually invisible to us. Researchers observed a bright burst of infrared emission from the core of colliding galaxies in Arp 299.

Astronomers first observed as a black hole ripped a star coming too close.

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Scientists believe tidal disruption events are common throughout the universe, but much of the energy is obscured by clouds of dust and gas around back holes.

In addition, because of the dust, which absorbs any visible light, this event may only be the tip of the iceberg, with the possibility of new discoveries.

Only a small number of this kind of stellar deaths, called tidal disruption events (TDEs), have been detected.

One of the effects: a powerful jetstream extending into one direction that was caught by radio and infrared telescopes. This also led to it emitting intense radiation- including X-rays and visible light, while at the same time ejecting massive jets of material outward at almost the speed of light from the poles of the newly formed disk, explains the release. Some of it flows from the inner part of the accretion disc via magnetic field lines to the black hole's poles, where radiation and particles are blasted into space at near light-speed, forming the characteristic jets.

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Their theory proved to be right after years of observations of the event in Hawaii, at the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) telescope.

Originally those jets, from Earth, appeared as a supernova. Subsequent monitoring showed the expansion growing, confirming that what the scientists are seeing is a jet, not a supernova.

The results, led by the University of Turku in Finland and the Astrophysical Institute of Andalucia in Spain, and including Imperial College London researchers, are published online today in the journal Science. "A global network of collaborating radio antennas is the only way to see this jet structure and study the evolution of such distant objects in detail." says Eskil Varenius, formerly at Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden, now at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics in the UK. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

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