Astronomers See For the First Time a Black Hole Eject Material as it Rips Star Apart

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Astronomers used radio and infrared telescopes while looking at a supermassive black hole. They saw, for the first time how the black hole ejected material as it ripped apart a star.

Most galaxies have a supermassive black hole that can be millions of times bigger than our sun. If a star is too close to the black hole, its huge gravity pulls it towards it and rips the star. The material of the star falls into the black hole. Before is torn apart, the material forms a disk around the black hole.

The formation is called tidal disruption events (TDE), and they have been a rare sight so far.

But with the help of the telescopes that can see what the human eye cannot, observed a TDE. The material from the poles of the disk is ejected into space.

It’s a TDE, Not a Supernova

This TDE occurs in two colliding galaxies called Arp 299, which are almost 150 million light-years away. The black hole of 20 million solar masses is tearing up a star that is two times bigger than our sun. The emission was first seen in 2005. Seppo Mattila (the University of Turku in Finland) stated:

“As time passed, the new object stayed bright at infrared and radio wavelengths, but not in visible light and X-rays. The most likely explanation is that thick interstellar gas and dust near the galaxy’s centre absorbed the X-rays and visible light, then re-radiated it as infrared.”

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

In the beginning, the researchers believed that the bright object was because of a supernova. After six years, researchers saw that the emission was getting elongated, dismissing the supernova theory.

The next step would be for the team to reveal more TDEs and discover some answers on galaxy formation.

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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