Astronomers have observed material being blown away from a black hole after it tore a star apart, as reported in our press release. This event, known as a "tidal disruption," is depicted in the artist's illustration.
Credit: Spectrum: NASA/CXC/U.Michigan/J.Miller et al.;
Astronomers used a trio of X-ray telescopes - NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer, and ESA's XMM-Newton - to observe a tidal disruption located in the center of a galaxy about 290 million light years away. This makes this tidal disruption, dubbed ASASSN-14li, the closest tidal disruption discovered in ten years. The event was discovered in an optical search by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) in November 2014. Theory predicts that early in the evolution of a tidal disruption, material from the shredded star (seen as the reddish-orange streak) should be pulled towards the black hole at a high rate, generating a huge amount of light. The amount of light should decline as the disrupted material falls onto the black hole, shown as the small black circle in the upper left of the illustration. In the case of ASASSN-14li, astronomers estimate the mass of the black hole is a few million times that of the Sun.
Gas often falls toward black holes by spiraling inward in a disk. But how this process starts has remained a mystery. In ASASSN-14li, astronomers were able to witness the formation of such a disk by looking at the X-ray light at different wavelengths (known as the "X-ray spectrum") and tracking how that changed over time. The researchers determined that the observed X-rays come from material that is either very close to or is actually in the smallest possible stable orbit around the black hole. ...
Scientists have discovered a hungry black hole swallowing a star at the centre of a nearby galaxy.
The supermassive black hole was found to have faint jets of material shooting out from it and helps to confirm scientists’ theories about the nature of black holes.
The discovery was published today in the journal Science.
Astrophysicist Dr Gemma Anderson, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said a supermassive black hole swallowing a star is an extreme event in which the star gets ripped apart.
“It’s very unusual when a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy actually eats a star, we’ve probably only seen about 20 of them,” she said.
“Everything we know about black holes suggests we should see a jet when this happens but until now they’ve only been detected in a few of the most powerful systems.
“Now we’ve finally found one in a more normal event.”
The discovery is the first time scientists have been able to see both a disk of material falling into a black hole, known as an accretion disk, and a jet in a system of this kind. ...
A radio jet from the optical and X-ray bright stellar tidal disruption flare ASASSN-14li - S. van Velzen et al