‘Spaghettified’ Star Wrapped Round A Black Hole Observed For First Time
Astronomers have observed a ‘spaghettified’ star wrapped around a black hole for the first time.
Scientists have observed a star being trapped by the gravitational pull of a black hole and becoming ‘spaghettified’ for the first time. The effect is commonly known as tidal disruption and occurs because the gravity of a black hole pulls one side of the star more firmly, causing the star to rip.
Eventually, the star will be sucked into the black hole, but this will cause it to turn into a long filament in the process. Previously, bursts of electromagnetic radiation from super black holes had been the only evidence of this process. However, this new finding adds to the scientific evidence.
A team of astronomers from the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) and Radboud University observed the event by monitoring absorption lines around the poles of a distant black hole. They were certain that they were focusing on the poles because they could measure X-rays, and this wouldn’t be possible from a different perspective.
Absorption lines are dark lines in what is normally a continuous spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. These dark lines will appear when electromagnetic radiation is obscured by something, which in this instance was a spaghettified star.
The researchers have claimed that this finding, which has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, shows that a strand of material from a star has been wrapped around a black hole. This means that the black hole is in fact tearing apart the star.
The researchers were also keen to distinguish what was found from other astronomical events, particularly disks of accreted matter that are known to be materials that are being drawn into a black hole.
As per Space.com, Giacomo Cannizzaro, the lead author of the paper, explained why what the team found was unique:
The absorption lines are narrow. They are not broadened by the Doppler effect, like you’d expect when you would be looking at a rotating disk.
The Doppler effect is caused by the fast motion of the material in the accretion disk. This would lead to brighter light being emitted. However, this study found no evidence of this, and as a result it supports the theory that growing black holes simply begin to swallow stars that cross their paths.
This evidence of the stars being ripped apart by ‘spaghettification’ will undoubtedly lead to more research about how black holes interact with other features of the universe. However, for now, many will just be glad that a black hole isn’t close enough to mercilessly swallow our sun through spaghettification.
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