Analysis of tidal events suggests the black hole tore the star apart and sent its material into space


One of the most mysterious astronomical objects, black holes are said to have an extreme gravitational pull that helps them suck in almost anything that comes close to them, even light. Although this has been known for a long time, scientists have recently made more fascinating observations by studying a star’s encounter with a black hole. Along with the process of spaghettification, where the black hole tears the star apart and stretches its material, the event also saw an intense wind flowing outward, sending the star’s material flying out into space.

Astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley used specialized spectrography at Lick Observatory to analyze a tidal disturbance event. Using the instrument, the team zeroed in on an event called AT2019qiz, where a star had come too close to a black hole.

The event occurred in a spiral galaxy in the constellation Eridanus, some 215 million light-years from Earth. The star ended up being shredded as it entered the black hole accreditation disk.

Following this, the scientists decided to observe the disturbance event in polarized light because it appeared too bright in optical light. Polarized light, where the waves travel in a single plane, allowed astronomers to gain deeper insight and see the aftermath of the event.

They noticed that most of the material from the star did not enter the black hole’s mouth during the event. Instead, material was strewn about in space. Winds generated by the black hole also led to a high-speed, spherically symmetric cloud composed of remnants of celestial matter.

The wind speed was recorded at 10,000 kilometers per second by the team. “This is the first time anyone has inferred the shape of the gas cloud around a tidal spaghettied star,” said Alex Filippenko, a UC Berkeley astronomy professor and a member of the team. research.

According to Kishore Patra, a graduate student and lead author of the study, previously recorded evidence suggests that wind blows such tidal disturbance events. “I think this polarization study definitely strengthens that evidence, in the sense that you wouldn’t get a spherical geometry without having a sufficient amount of wind. The interesting fact here is that a significant fraction of the material in the star that spins inward doesn’t eventually fall into the black hole — it gets kicked out of the black hole,” Patra said.

Wenbin Lu, a member of the team and assistant professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, shared that studying such tidal disturbance events is crucial to understanding the existence of black holes and measuring their properties.


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