Researchers witnessed an instance of violent 'spaghettification' of a star by a black hole

Fareeha Arshad
Photo byPhoto by Kamesh Vedula on Unsplash

Scientists have discovered evidence of spaghettification, the violent process of tearing a star apart by a black hole, in a dying star located over 700 million light-years away. The event, AT2019dsg, was detected in April 2019 and emitted a brilliant flare of light across various wavelengths, including X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, and radio.

The team of astronomers analyzed the electromagnetic output and found absorption lines, which indicate that light has travelled through a medium that slows or blocks certain wavelengths. This is unusual for the poles of supermassive black holes, where accretion disks typically orbit the equatorial region.

The absorption lines observed in AT2019dsg suggest the presence of multiple strands of material, resembling a ball of string wrapped around the black hole at an unusual angle. The researchers propose that these strands may be spaghettified filaments of a tidally disrupted star ejected away from the main debris.

The variation and width of the absorption lines indicate different orbital motions and projected velocities of these strands, potentially caused by self-gravitating streams of material deflected at large angles. In contrast, the bulk of the disrupted material forms an accretion disk.

This would be the first direct evidence of the spaghettification process if confirmed. Previous observations of tidal disruption events have not revealed such features. The researchers note that the AT2019dsg event has already produced other intriguing discoveries, such as detecting a high-energy neutrino associated with the event. What additional surprises this unusually bright stellar death may hold remains to be seen. With further studies, researchers hope to find further details about this event.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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