Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Black Hole Destroys a Star (Animation) | Science Communication Lab

Black Hole Destroys a Star (Animation) | Science Communication Lab

Multiple NASA telescopes recently observed a massive black hole tearing apart an unlucky star that wandered too close. Located about 250 million light-years from Earth in the center of another galaxy, it was the fifth-closest example of a black hole destroying a star ever observed. Once the star had been thoroughly ruptured by the black hole’s gravity, astronomers saw a dramatic rise in high-energy X-ray light around the black hole. This indicated that as the stellar material was pulled toward its doom, it formed an extremely hot structure above the black hole called a corona.

The destruction of a star by a black hole—a process formally known as a tidal disruption event— could be used to better understand what happens to material that is captured by one of these behemoths before it is fully devoured.

A wayward star is ripped to shreds by a black hole in this animation from the Science Communication Lab for DESY, the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron. Known as a tidal disruption event, the star is first stretched out by the black hole’s intense gravity, until it no longer resembles a star. The river of stellar material wraps around the black hole, and forms an existing accretion disk (or add to an existing one). These events can also produce coronae (clouds of ultra-hot plasma that radiate hard X-ray light) and jets that spew material away from the black hole at its poles. 

These events emit wavelengths spanning almost the entire electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to high-energy X-rays. They are studied by many space and ground-based telescopes including the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), located at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California, and NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescopic Array) observatory. 

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR's mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA's High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission's ground station and a mirror archive. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

For more information on NuSTAR, visit:



Credit: Science Communication Lab/DESY

Duration: 53 seconds

Release Date: Dec. 20, 2022

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