For the first time ever astronomers have spotted a gigantic black hole shredding a massive star that just got too close to it.
The star in question that got ripped apart by the black hole’s gravitational pull had more than twice the mass of our Sun. Black holes are so deep and dense that nothing, not even light can escape them.
The international team of scientists was able to capture pictures of a fast-moving jet of material being ejected from the black hole, which is 20 million times more massive than the sun. When the black hole devoured the star, it spewed a fast group of particles that contained 125 billion times the amount of energy that the sun releases annually.
Only a handful of such tidal disruption events (TDE) have ever been detected, but, it has never been seen in such detail before. It is believed that TDEs may have been a more common occurrence in the early days of the universe.
“Never before have we been able to directly observe the formation and evolution of a jet from one of these events,” said astronomer Miguel Perez-Torres.
The research team used radio and infrared telescopes, including the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), to track the event in a pair of colliding galaxies called Arp 299 located 150 million light-years from Earth.
Scientists recorded the first TDE on January 30, 2005 when they spotted an explosion of infrared emission from the nucleus in a galaxy located in Arp 299. By July 2005, a new source of radio emission emerged from the location of Arp 299. Continued observations showed the source of radio emission expanding in one direction, just as expected for a jet.
Astronomers are hopeful that the new discovery will help them better understand the formation of the galaxy as well as how black holes function in the universe.
The study findings have been detailed in the journal Science.