Supermassive black hole devouring a star, blasting its remains to Earth
A supermassive black hole gobbled up a star, tore it apart and uniquely ejected a beam of light from its center.
In a scientific research report Published Wednesday, astronomers say a previously unknown black hole was made known to observers when a star got too close and was devoured.
Astronomers then observed a beam “afterglow” from the catastrophe, which experts call a Tidal Disruption Event (TDE), right on towards the earth.
“The event began when an ill-fated star approached the supermassive black hole (SMBH) on a near parabolic orbit and was dismembered in a stream of gaseous debris,” said the scientific paper, published Nov. 30. “About half of the mass remained bound to the black hole, underwent a general relativistic apsidal precession as the gas fell back toward the pericenter, then produced strong shocks at the self-crossing point.”
The scientists said the beam emitted — the AT2022cmc, or an “infrared/optical/ultraviolet light curve” — was initially red in color before fading to a blue hue over four days.
The astronomers added: “The optical and ultraviolet observations revealed a rapidly fading red ‘glow’ that quickly transitioned to a slow blue ‘plateau’, allowing the study of two components generated by the tidal disturbance: the relativistic jet and the thermal component of bound stellar debris accumulating on the black hole.”
The blown-up remnants were so powerfully bright that astronomers used the TDE of the dwarf galaxy a million light years away.
The article added: “Observations of a bright counterpart at other wavelengths, including X-ray, submillimeter and radio, support the interpretation of AT2022cmc as a jetted TDE with a synchrotron.”
The TDE was discovered in February 2022, before the science newspaper received the paper on it in April 2022, and the research was finally accepted in October 2022.
TDEs have been observed before, such as the AT 2020neh in June 2020.
Ryan J. Foley, a co-author and astronomer from UC Santa Cruz, said this initial discovery would pave the way for astronomers to find other TDEs and new dwarf galaxies.
“This discovery has generated a lot of excitement because we can’t use tidal disturbances alone to find more intermediate masses black holes in silent dwarf galaxies, but also to measure their mass,” Foley said in a science paper co-published Nov. 10.
The discovery spanned years of research when the distant galaxy was first observed in June 2020, and was confirmed with data from the Young Supernova Experiment. It was observed again from July 1, 2020 to July 17, 2020; then from August 5, 2020 to September 6, 2020.
“During 24 months of YSE operations, we observed only one AT 2020neh-like event, with fields monitored for approximately 6 months each. This corresponds to one event per year within the YSE observation volume,” the scientific paper reads.
These unique discoveries could result in even more discoveries in distant galaxies that would otherwise be undetectable without visible light from the explosion.
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