NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope records black holes twisting the star into the shape of a donut
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recorded in detail the last moments of a star as it was eaten by a black hole.
The agency said the process twisted the star into a doughnut-like shape during the process.
When a star gets close enough, the black hole’s gravity violently tears it apart, spewing out intense radiation in what’s known as a “tidal disturbance.”
Astronomers are using the telescope to better understand what’s happening, using its powerful ultraviolet sensitivity to study the light from the AT2022dsb “stellar snacking event.”
The star lies nearly 300 million light-years away in the core of the galaxy ESO 583-G004.
About 100 tidal disturbances around black holes have been detected by astronomers using various telescopes.
The agency recently reported that a high-energy space observatory spotted another such event in March 2021.
“We’re excited because we can get these details about what the debris is doing. The tidal event can tell us a lot about a black hole,” said Emily Engelthaler of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, said in a statement.
For any galaxy with a quiet supermassive black hole in the center, stellar fragmentation is estimated to happen only a few times every 100,000 years.
This AT2022dsb event was first captured on March 1, 2022 by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, a network of ground-based telescopes.
The collision was close enough to Earth and bright enough thanks to ultraviolet spectroscopy for a longer-than-normal period.
“Usually these events are hard to see. You might get a few observations at the beginning of the disturbance when it’s really clear. Our program is different because it’s designed to look at a few tidal events over a year to see what is happening.”, Peter Maksym of the Center for Astrophysics explains. “We saw this early enough to observe it in these very intense black hole accretion stages. We saw the accretion rate drop as it turned into a trickle over time.”
The data is interpreted as coming from the donut shape field of gas that was once the star.
The region is known as a torus, swirling around a black hole at its center.
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