“What happens in a black hole stays in a black hole.” Well, not exactly. Sometimes it spits out massive energy jets equivalent to 125 billion times of the energy released by our sun.
After decades of observations, thousands of speculations, and uncountable theories, scientists at last succeeded in capturing the first image of a black hole devouring a star. Situated nearly 150 million light years away from the Earth, the black hole gobbled a star that was twice the mass of our sun. Such phenomenon is observed by researchers for the first time and it can unlock new mysteries of black holes destroying stars.
Supermassive black holes possess such strong gravitational effects that nothing–not even particles and electromagnetic wavelengths such as light–escapes from it. According to a recent study, our galaxy contains dozens of black holes at its center. If a star passes too close to such massive black holes, its super powerful gravitational pull can rip a star into shreds. That is exactly what happened this Thursday, and the astronomers were lucky enough to capture that moment. An international team of scientists, led by Miguel Perez-Torres of the Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia in Spain and Seppo Mattila of the University of Turku in Finland explained the aftereffects of this event and published a paper in the journal Science.
Even though black holes can be a terrible end of some stars or planets, for astronomers, these occurrences are absolutely fortunate as they can spill some secrets of gravitational waves. When a star gets too close to a black hole, its gravity pull destroys the star, such act is known as “tidal disruption”, the same phenomenon that destroyed Saturn’s small moon to create one of its rings. In tidal disruption, a small part of the star falls into the black hole and rest gets created into a powerful energy jet that emerges out into space. However, such occurrences are extremely rare, and they do not last long. Moreover, if the strong jet of energy gets hide by gas and dust, we maybe not be able to observe them at all. First tidal disruption was observed in 2005, but scientists could not understand the data. Back then, telescopes picked up loads of infrared and radio lights from the collision of two galaxies known as Arp 299, but could not gather the data of X-rays or visible light. To understand more, astronomers studied the galaxies with the help of Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio observatory and other several observatories. The research concluded that the source of light jets moves about one-fourth of the speed of light. Only black holes have such ability to boost to particles. Moreover, the jet of energy was moving away from the center of the collision of galaxies as if the jet is created by tidal disruption.
This discovery is the best piece of evidence that scientists have to prove that black holes can emit jets of matter by gorging stars. Moreover, scientists have about ten years of data with them to understand how a hungry black hole eats unfortunate stars. If this hypothesis of tidal destruction is accurate, it means there are several chances for lucky astronomers to observe events of a black hole eating unlucky stars and discovers the hidden secrets of the beginning of the universe.