Scientists have observed an irregular discharge of light from a star as it was consumed by a black hole.
The unique tidal disruption event was observable in telescopes across the world and it appeared like a bright burst of energy, the closest of its kind ever documented, at just 215 million light-years away.
Such occurrences ensue when a star gets too close to a black hole and is drawn in by its intense gravity and as the star is sucked in, it undergoes a process called spaghettification, where the star is shredded into thin strips, some of which descends into the black hole.
When it does, a burst of energy is discharged and flies out into the universe, allowing the process to be spotted by distant astronomers.
Lead author Dr Matt Nicholl, a lecturer and Royal Astronomical Society research fellow at the University of Birmingham said that the concept of a black hole sucking in a nearby star sounds like science fiction, but that this was exactly what was happening in a tidal disruption event.
And he continued that they were able to investigate in detail what occurs when a star is consumed by such a monster and they were able to watch it through telescopes around the world – the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope and New Technology Telescope, the Las Cumbres Observatory global telescope network, and the Neil Gehrels Swift Satellite – over six months, watching it as it grew brighter and then withered away.
Such a view is not usually attainable because dust and debris can cover up the tidal disruption events, which are already exceedingly rare, and that has made investigating the nature of the flare that is unleashed extremely difficult.
Samantha Oates, also at the University of Birmingham said that when a black hole devours a star, it can project a powerful burst of material outwards that blocks their view.
She continued that this occurs because the energy emitted as the black hole swallows up stellar material and forces the star’s debris outwards.
Astronomers were able to see this one, named AT2019qiz, in better detail than ever before because it was detected shortly after the star was torn to shreds.
Thomas Wevers, an ESO Fellow in Santiago, Chile, who was at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, when he conducted the work said that several sky surveys uncovered emission from the new tidal disruption event extremely quickly after the star was torn apart.
He continued that they immediately honed a suite of ground-based and space telescopes in that direction to see how the light was produced, which let them see and better understand both the flare and the debris that would usually surround it.
With a bit of luck, it might devour Planet Earth because that’s all it’s fit for at the moment and we could give the black hole a running stomach with all the debris and contamination living on earth, but it would probably spit us back out!
And at just 215 million light-years ago – right next door, the black hole shreds a star into spaghetti, eats it appetisingly, then as part of the digestion process spews a blaze of energy that intellectualists can see with their telescopes.
What they’re seeing is from 215 million years ago, the same time when dinosaurs ruled the earth.
You can manipulate the evidence all you want but the speed of light can’t be thrust aside to substantiate legends or junk science.