Astronomers catch black hole devouring star

Artist’s conception of a tidal disruption event — when a supermassive black hole tears apart a star and launches a jet of material at a significant fraction of the speed of light. In the background is a Hubble Space Telescope image of Arp 299, the colliding galaxies where the TDE from this study was found. (Credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF; NASA, STScI)


Also published in Astronomy

June 2018

Astronomers Seppo Mattila and Miguel Pérez-Torres usually study the natural deaths of stars, but they weren’t going to pass up the chance to investigate a stellar murder.

A new paper in Science describes how they nabbed photographic evidence that a supermassive black hole in a relatively nearby galaxy tore apart and consumed part of a star in a phenomenon called a tidal disruption event (TDE), spewing jets of material in the process. Scientists have observed these cosmic crime scenes before, but this was the first time anyone managed to get such detailed images of the jets and their changing structure over time.