Black Hole Sucks Star Like It's Spaghetti
Astronomers were lucky to catch the distant event as it began and observed the spectacle as it unfolded over six months
BIRMINGHAM, UK — Scientists had a rare look at a black hole pulling a star apart over the last six months.
Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory observed a black hole sucking in a faraway star, shredding it into thin strands of stellar material.
This process, known as "spaghettification," happens because of black holes' powerful gravitational force.
Observed in the Eridanus constellation, about 215 million light-years away from Earth, this was the closest such event astronomers have ever observed.
"When an unlucky star wanders too close to a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy, the extreme gravitational pull of the black hole shreds the star into thin streams of material'" said the study's author, Thomas Wevers, in a press release about the discovery.
When these strands get sucked into the black hole, they release a powerful flare of energy that astronomers can detect, even from hundreds of millions of light-years away, according to the study, which was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The research team discovered the star soon after it started getting ripped apart, and observed it through ultraviolet, optical, X-ray and radio wavelengths. The combination of the star's proximity and timing allowed the astronomers to study it in "unprecedented detail," according to the press release.
Scientists from NASA and several universities theorize that quite a few massive black holes lurk at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. Luckily, these same scientists calculate the chances of such a black hole getting close enough to gobble up our sun and Earth, is extremely low.
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