Supermassive Black Hole Devoured a Star for 10 Years

This artist’s illustration depicts what astronomers call a “tidal disruption event,” or TDE, when an object such as a star wanders too close to a black hole and is destroyed by tidal forces generated from the black hole’s intense gravitational forces. A trio of X-ray telescopes including Chandra witnessed a TDE that has lasted more than a decade, much longer than any previously observed TDE. This implies that the event involved either the most massive star to be completely ripped apart and devoured by a black hole or the first instance where a smaller star was completely ripped apart.

A massive black hole devoured a star over a 10 year period, setting a new record for the longest space meal ever observed, according to new research.

Researchers spotted the ravenous black hole with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift satellite as well as ESA’s XMM-Newton, according to a statement from NASA.

When objects like stars get too close to black holes, the intense gravity of the black hole can rip the star apart in what’s called a tidal disruption event (TDE), according to NASA.

While some of the debris from the star is flung forward, parts of it are pulled back and ingested by the black hole, where it heats up and emits an X-ray flare, NASA said in a statement.

The tidal disruption event spotted by the trio of X-ray telescopes, is unlike anything researchers have ever seen, lasting ten times longer than any observed incident of star’s death caused by a black hole, according to research published in Nature Astronomy Feb. 6.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Mary Bowerman