1673856510 Hubble telescope observed black hole shredding star CNET France

Hubble telescope observed black hole shredding star

The Hubble telescope observed a black hole shredding a star

Scientists have just announced that the Hubble Space Telescope has captured what happens when a black hole “accretes” a star. “In general, these events are difficult to observe. You might get some observations early in the perturbation when it’s really bright,” says Peter Maksym of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics and the Smithsonian.

Caught in the black hole’s gravitational embrace, this star has been shredded until it looks like a swirl of dust orbiting its predator. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “spaghettification” of matter, because even the most solid objects unfortunate enough to get too close to this extreme gravitational hole are shredded into shreds.

Hubble telescope observed black hole shredding star CNET France

A simulation of a star being torn apart after approaching a black hole. DESY, science communication laboratory

During this time, the black hole has engulfed its star, which takes on the appearance of a doughnut, scientifically called a torus. He breathed in the gases and spat out matter at the same time. For context, this torus is assumed to be roughly the size of our solar system.

This event happened about 300 million years ago

Hubble didn’t literally film everything that happened in real time. This event happened about 300 million light-years from Earth, which also means it happened about 300 million years ago. But the light of this event has only just reached our planet, so we see it in what we call the present.

1673856506 894 Hubble telescope observed black hole shredding star CNET France

This series of artist illustrations shows how a black hole can engulf a star that orbits it. 1. A normal star passes a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. 2. Gases outside the star are drawn into the black hole’s gravitational field. 3. The star is being shredded by tidal forces. 4. Stellar remnants will be drawn into a donut-shaped ring (torus) around the black hole and will eventually fall into it, releasing a tremendous amount of high-energy light and radiation. Nasa, Esa, Leah Hustak (STScI)

The telescope’s UV sensitivity made it possible to study the light emitted by the jagged star that journeyed to Earth over thousands of years, and astronomers were able to track all of these light signals to determine how the star formed: warped, wrinkled, and crumpled as he disappeared.

Below is a representation of the event as calculated by the team.

Officially named AT2022dsb, this episode was recorded on March 1, 2022 by a network of ground-based telescopes called the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae. This discovery piqued the interest of Hubble astronomers, who immediately attempted to obtain ultraviolet data on this violent disturbance.

“The star is being shredded and the material coming out of it is heading towards the black hole. So there are models where you think you know what’s going on and then there’s what you actually see,” said Peter Maksym. “It is an exciting place for scientists: at the interface between the known and the unknown. ยป

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CNET.com article adapted from CNETFrance

Image: Nasa, Esa, Leah Hustak (STScI)