The force of a black hole is powerful enough to unravel a passing star. If that scene is difficult for you to imagine, just take a look at NASA’s digital rendering above.
This newly released animation depicts “tidal disruption,” a phenomenon astronomers recently observed in real life using three X-ray telescopes. The event, which they dubbed ASASSN-14li, allowed scientists to gather new details on how stars and black holes interact.
In the animation, material is shown being ripped away from the passing star at a high rate, which generates a huge amount of light. The light diminishes as the star collapses into the black hole, and the gas spirals toward the center in a disk formation. Scientists now know that when stellar debris falls toward the hole’s center, it reaches temperatures of millions of degrees. This heat pushes gases outward in the form of a high-speed wind, forming the gaseous disk around it.
This phenomenon was observed using the telescopes to study X-ray light at different wavelengths and to see how they changed over time. Astronomers discovered ASASSN-14li in November 2014, and at 290 million light-years from Earth, the tidal disruption is the closest one we’ve found in the last decade. For more information on ASASSN-14li, check out NASA’s awesomely titled press release, Destroyed Star Rains onto Black Hole, Wind Blows it Back.
[h/t: The Verge]