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Jul 11, 2022

The ultimate fate of a star shredded by a black hole

Posted by in categories: cosmology, materials

In 2019, astronomers observed the nearest example to date of a star that was shredded, or “spaghettified,” after approaching too close to a massive black hole.

That tidal disruption of a sun-like star by a black hole 1 million times more massive than itself took place 215 million from Earth. Luckily, this was the first such event bright enough that astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, could study the optical light from the stellar death, specifically the light’s polarization, to learn more about what happened after the star was torn apart.

Their observations on Oct. 8, 2019, suggest that a lot of the star’s material was blown away at high speed—up to 10,000 kilometers per second—and formed a spherical cloud of gas that blocked most of the high-energy emissions produced as the black hole gobbled up the remainder of the star.

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