In 2019, astronomers detected the closest example of a star minced, or “spaghettified,” after going too close to an enormous black hole.
That tidal disruption of a sun-like star by a black hole 1 million times more massive than itself took 215 million light years away from Earth. Luckily, this was the first such incident that astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, will be able to examine the optical light from the stellar death, especially the light’s polarization, to learn more about what happened after the star was broken apart.
Their findings on 8th October 2019 show that much of the star’s material was blasted away at high speed of up to 10,000 kilometers per second and created a spherical cloud of gas that obstructed most of the high-energy emissions generated as the black hole devoured the remainder of the star.
“This is the first time anyone has deduced the shape of the gas cloud around a tidally spaghettified star,” announced Alex Filippenko, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy and a research team member.
“This observation rules out a class of solutions that have been proposed theoretically and gives us a stronger constraint on what happens to gas around a black hole,” announced UC Berkeley graduate student Kishore Patra, lead author of the study.