Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
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An international team of astronomers including CIERA scientists Dr. Kate D. Alexander and Dr. Peter Blanchard recently reported a rare discovery: a star being torn apart and consumed by a supermassive black hole.
At just 215 million light years from Earth, this tidal disruption event (AT2019qiz) is one of the closest such events seen to date, and was studied in unprecedented detail. The new observations shed light on the messy accretion process, which is often obscured by stellar debris.
“Because we caught it early, we could actually see the curtain of dust and debris being drawn up as the black hole launched a powerful outflow of material with velocities up to 10 000 km/s,” says Dr. Alexander. “This unique ‘peek behind the curtain’ provided the first opportunity to pinpoint the origin of the obscuring material and follow in real time how it engulfs the black hole.”
- European Southern Observatory Science Release, “Death by Spaghettification: ESO Telescopes Record Last Moments of Star Devoured by a Black Hole“
- Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian Press Release, “Scientists Get Front-Row Seats to Star’s Death by Spaghettification“
- View the paper, “An outflow powers the optical rise of the nearby, fast-evolving tidal disruption event AT2019qiz“
Media Mentions of CIERA/Northwestern
- The New York Times, “A Black Hole’s Lunch: Stellar Spaghetti” by Dennis Overbye
- CNN, “Astronomers witness ‘spaghettification’ of star shredded by a black hole” by Ashley Strickland
- CNET, “Astronomers see a black hole ‘spaghettify’ a star in real time” by Eric Mack
- Forbes, “We Watched A Star Get ‘Spaghettified’ By A Monster Black Hole, Say Scientists” by Jamie Carter
- Ars Technica, “Death by black hole: Astronomers spot flare from “spaghettification” of star” by Jennifer Ouellette
- Fox News, “Astronomers watch a black hole destroy a star in deep space” by Chris Ciaccia
- Live Science, “Black hole caught turning a poor star into spaghetti” by Rafi Letzter
- Popular Mechanics, “‘Spaghettification’ Is the Most Badass Way for a Star to Die” by Jennifer Leman
- CBS News, “Star dies by “spaghettification” as it’s consumed by supermassive black hole” by Sophie Lewis