NASA captured the unusual moment when a black hole devours a star

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black hole star
A disk of hot gas revolves around a black hole. | Photo: NASA.

Recently, multiple NASA telescopes managed to capture an image of the unusual moment in which a massive black hole devoured an unlucky star who approached him.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)the black hole It is located about 250 million light years from Earth in the center of another galaxy, and according to his observations once the gravity of the black hole completely broke the star, it was possible to see a dramatic increase in high-energy X-ray light around the black hole.

This indicated that as stellar material was drawn towards its doom, it formed an extremely hot structure above the black hole called the corona.

Thanks to the NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescopic Array) satellite of the POTthe most sensitive space telescope capable of observing these wavelengths of light, and the proximity of the event, it was possible to obtain an unprecedented view of the formation and evolution of the corona, according to a new study published in Astrophysical Journal .

According to the scientists, it was surprising when NuSTAR detected a corona, a cloud of hot plasma or gas atoms with the electrons stripped from them, since coronas usually appear with jets of gas flowing in opposite directions from a hole. black. However, with this tidal event, there were no jets, making the corona observation unexpected.

  • The coronas emit higher-energy X-rays than any other part of a black hole, but scientists don’t know where the plasma comes from or how it gets so hot.

“We’ve never seen an X-ray-emitting tidal disruption event like this without the presence of a jet, and that’s really spectacular because it means we can potentially tease out what causes jets and what causes coronas,” said Yuhan Yao, graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and lead author of the new study.

“Our observations agree with the idea that magnetic fields have something to do with how the corona forms, and we want to know what is causing that magnetic field to get so strong,” he added.

The event was named as AT2021ehb and was first seen on March 1, 2021 by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), located at the Palomar Observatory in southern California. It was later studied by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope, which observes longer X-ray wavelengths than Swift.

Then, around 300 days after the event was first detected, NASA’s NuSTAR began observing the system.

According to Management, this observed event not only demonstrates how the destruction of a star by a black holea process formally known as a tidal disruption event, but could also be used to better understand what happens to material captured by one of these giants before it is completely devoured.

Since most of the black holes that scientists can study are surrounded by hot gas that has built up over many years, sometimes millennia, and forms disks billions of kilometers wide. In some cases, these disks outshine entire galaxies.

Even around these bright sources, but especially around much less active black holes, a single star stands out, tearing itself apart and consuming itself. From start to finish, the process often takes just a few weeks or months.

The observability and short duration of tidal disruption events make them especially attractive to astronomers, who can figure out how the gravity of the black hole manipulates the material around it, creating incredible light shows and new physical features.

This was the fifth closest example of a black hole destroying a star ever observed.

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