Black hole devours star by “spaghettification”

An international team of researchers recorded the rare moment when a star is devoured by a supermassive black hole. They captured a rare flash from the dying star using several telescopes from around the world, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope and New Technology Telescope. The event is called “tidal disruption event” (TDE) or “spaghettification”, and it happened only 215 million light-years from Earth, the closest to our planet ever recorded, reports Space.com.

The “tidal disruption event” creates “spaghettification”, meaning the star is stretching more and more until it’s sucked into the black hole. “The idea of a black hole ‘sucking in’ a nearby star sounds like science fiction. But this is exactly what happens in a tidal disruption event”, explained author Matt Nicholl, who led the new study, and who is also a lecturer and Royal Astronomical Society researcher at the University of Birmingham.

Death by Spagettification! (ESO/M. Kornmesser/ Robert Lea)

“When an unlucky star wanders too close to a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy, the extreme gravitational pull of the black hole shreds the star into thin streams of material”, said co-author Thomas Wevers in a statement from the European Southern Observatory.

The international team of scientists was able to study the phenomenon in great detail for six months because it was caught early. Usually, a black hole eating up a star throws out material from the dying star, making it difficult to observe the event. This time, the researchers were able to find out more information because they observed it shortly after the star was torn apart.

Info main photo: This illustration depicts a star (in the foreground) experiencing spaghettification as it’s sucked in by a supermassive black hole (in the background) during a ‘tidal disruption event’. In a new study, done with the help of ESO’s Very Large Telescope and ESO’s New Technology Telescope, a team of astronomers found that when a black hole devours a star, it can launch a powerful blast of material outwards.

Photo credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser