This supermassive black hole shredded a star

Christopher Davidson
June 19, 2018

Such an occurrence, called a tidal disruption event (TDE), has been rarely spotted.

An global team of researchers tracked the cosmic clash using powerful radio and infrared telescopes honed on the centre of two colliding galaxies; known collectively as Arp 299 and close to 150 million light years from Earth. When they have detected a bright light of infrared emissions, they started to monitor these emissions by using the William Herschel Telescope which was located in the Canary Islands. By July 2005, a new source of radio emission emerged from the location of Arp 299.

Over the course of almost a decade, astronomers observed the object using both infrared telescopes and radio telescopes.

Artist's depiction of a star being pulled into a supermassive black hole. A TDE was recently observed near the center of Arp299B.

Observations showed that the object dropped in the X-ray and visible spectrums over time while staying active in radio and infrared.

Though it was believed that the emission should also show up in optical telescopes, nothing was observed in either visible or X-ray emissions.

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Their measurements of the expansion suggested it was moving at 25% of the speed of light. The radio waves are not absorbed by the dust, but pass through it. These multiple radio antennas separated by thousands of kilometers allow the VLBA to gain an incredible resolving power - the ability to see fine detail - which is required to observe the features of an expanding object from millions of light-years away.

The black hole was at the core of one of the galaxies and it is said to be 20 million times more massive than the Sun. Some of it flows from the inner part of the accretion disc via magnetic field lines to the black hole's poles, where radiation and particles are blasted into space at near light-speed, forming the characteristic jets. Upon closer inspection, they discovered that a supermassive black hole at the center of one galaxy was involved.

Most galaxies have supermassive black holes, notes the report.

"TDEs can provide us with a unique opportunity to advance our understanding of the formation and evolution of jets in the vicinities of these powerful objects", Dr. Perez-Torres said. Events such this one are more abundant in the distant universe due to galaxies evolving in earlier stages. But the recent discovery will help scientists comprehend what exactly happens in black holes and the type of environment present when galaxies first came into being.

Originally those jets, from Earth, appeared as a supernova. After six years, researchers saw that the emission was getting elongated, dismissing the supernova theory.

Miguel Perez-Torres from Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia in Spain said.

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