WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists have captured the sight of a colossal black hole violently destroying a doomed star, illustrating an extraordinary and chaotic cosmic event from beginning to end for the first time using NASA's planet-hunting telescope.
The US Space Agency's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS, unveiled the detailed timeline of a star at 375 million light-years of deformation and spiraling into the relentless gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole, researchers said. Thursday.
The star, about the size of our Sun, was sucked into oblivion in a rare cosmic occurrence that astronomers call a tidal disturbance event, they added.
Astronomers used an international network of telescopes to detect the phenomenon before resorting to TESS, whose permanent observation zones designed to hunt distant planets captured the onset of the violent event, proving their unique method of surveillance of the cosmos effectively.
"It was really a combination of being good and being lucky, and sometimes that's what you need to boost science," said astronomer Thomas Holoien of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who led the research published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Such phenomena happen when a star ventures too close to a supermassive black hole, objects that reside in the center of most large galaxies, including the Milky Way. The tremendous gravitational forces of the black hole tear the star to pieces, with some of its material thrown into space and the rest plunging into the black hole, forming a hot, glowing gas disk as it is swallowed.
"Specifically, we are able to measure the rate at which it gets brighter after it begins to lighten, and we also see a drop in temperature and brightness that is unique," said Holoien.
Watching the oscillation of light as the black hole devours the star and vomits stellar material in an outer spiral can help astronomers understand the behavior of the black hole, a scientific mystery since the work of physicist Albert Einstein over a century ago, examined the influence of gravity on moving light.
Joey Roulette reporting; Editing by Will Dunham
Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. . (tagsToTranslate) USA (t) SPACE (t) BLACKHOLE (t) General news (t) Life / Lifestyle (t) Science (t) Image available (t) Space exploration (t) United States