Caught in the act: A black hole rips apart a star

New Magnificent Black Hole Visualization

New Magnificent Black Hole Visualization

In layman's terms, that's when a star gets a little too close to a black hole and, well, it stops being a star after that.

Astronomers used a worldwide network of telescopes to detect the phenomenon before looking at TESS, whose permanent viewing zones created to find distant planets, caught the beginning of the violent event.

Astronomers have been doing a fantastic job this year of giving us a whole lot of what we want to see from outer space: Mainly black holes doing insane black-hole stuff.

In a recent press release, NASA announced that its "planet hunting" Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) spotted a supermassive black hole feasting on a star as the latter celestial object was sucked into orbit by the inescapable gravity of the former.

In a statement, NASA has explained that the new visualisation simulates the appearance of a black hole where the infalling matter gets collected into a thin, hot structure called an accretion disk. In the process, the extreme gravity breaks the star apart into an elongated stream of gas.

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Black holes are regions of extremely high density that warp space around them to such an extent that it traps matter and light. TESS first recorded this tidal dissolution on 21 January. As light circles the black hole two, three or more times, it forms a photon ring. Luckily, the break-up of the star was quite bright, and it happened in the satellite's continuous viewing zone above the south pole.

TESS screens enormous swaths of the sky, called segments, for 27 days one after another.

NASA said that the tidal disturbance occasion was found by the ASAS-SN - an overall system of 20 robotic telescopes headquartered at Ohio State University (OSU) in the U.S. on January 29.

TESS, launched in April 2018, is NASA's second spacecraft after Kepler Space Telescope in the search for planets outside our solar system, including those that could support life. ASAS-SN was able to do so because its array of 20 robotic telescopes based in both the northern and southern hemispheres is capable of surveying the entire sky approximately once every day. "They also show us that ASASSN-19bt's rise in brightness was very smooth, which helps us tell that the event was a tidal disruption and not another type of outburst, like from the center of a galaxy or a supernova". The TESS observational campaign is still ongoing, so there's still time to spot some more tidal disruption events.

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