Astronomers saw how a black hole turned a star into spaghetti

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Astronomers saw how a black hole turned a star into spaghetti
Astronomers saw how a black hole turned a star into spaghetti
27 April, 11:34SciencePhoto: NASA / CXC / M. Weiss
Scientists have repeatedly observed bursts of electromagnetic radiation from black holes. It has been suggested that this is the result of the destruction of stars, but there was no visible evidence.

Recently, a group of astronomers have observed for the first time signs that a star has been deformed into a spaghetti state under the influence of a black hole.

Most stars in the Universe die a natural death: either blown away, shedding their outer shell, or cool down, or go out as a result of a supernova explosion. But stars living in the inner region of their galaxy have a different end. They can be ripped apart into thin strands by the supermassive black hole found at the center of most galaxies. The black hole's inhomogeneous gravity pulls on one side of the star so much more than the other that it deforms its structure and tears the star apart. Astronomers call this process spaghettification, or scientifically speaking, tidal destruction.

After the star turns into spaghetti, it finally falls into the black hole, emitting a short burst of radiation. Astronomers have noticed these bursts for decades and assumed they were observing the action of tidal destruction. But they never saw it clearly.

Recently, a group of astronomers from the Netherlands Institute for Space Research observed spectral absorption lines for the first time looking at one of the poles of a black hole, phys.org reports. It is known that black holes can have an accretion disk around their equator, where matter falls from the surrounding space. But the absorption lines above the black hole's pole suggested that a long thread was wrapped around the black hole many times. This ball of yarn was a nod to a recently torn star. The researchers knew that the black hole was facing them with the pole, because they detected X-rays, and the accretion disk is the only part of the black hole with this type of radiation.

The research is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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