0

Astronomers Observe Star Being ‘Spaghettified’ by a Supermassive Black Hole

Posted on

Artist’s impression of a star undergoing spaghettification near a supermassive black hole.

Artist’s impression of a star undergoing spaghettification near a supermassive black hole.
Image: ESO

A star 215 million light-years away has been obliterated by a supermassive black hole, making it the closest observation to date of stellar spaghettification.

Spaghettification doesn’t sound very scientific, but it’s a fairly accurate description of what actually happens.

A doomed star caught in the orbit of a supermassive black hole will eventually hit a kind of gravitational sweet spot that turns everything to shit. No longer capable of keeping its physical integrity, the star begins to rapidly collapse in a process known as a fast-evolving tidal disruption event. When this happens, stellar debris bursts out from the star, forming a long, thin stream, half of which gets sucked toward the black hole; the other half is blown back into space. The thin stream eventually catches up to and slams into itself, releasing energy and forming an accretion disc. If that’s hard to visualize, here’s a video showing the process:

The destruction produces a bright flash of light, which astronomers can observe on Earth. A few of these events are captured each year, but new research published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society describes the nearest case of stellar spaghettification ever recorded, at 215 million light-years away. The event, designated AT2019qiz, was chronicled last year, and it appeared at the core of a spiral galaxy located in the Eridanus constellation. The unfortunate star was roughly the same size as our Sun, and it was torn apart by a supermassive black hole roughly 1 million times the Sun’s mass.

The event was initially captured by the Zwicky Transient Facility, with follow-up observations done with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, the ESO New Technology Telescope, and Harvard & Smithsonian’s MMT Observatory, among other

0

Astronomers see a black hole ‘spaghettify’ a star in real time

Posted on

Artist’s impression of star being tidally disrupted by a supermassive black hole.  


ESO/M. Kornmesser

It’s one of those astounding events that sounds like science fiction, but is just plain science. Astronomers say they were able to capture in unprecedented detail the process of a star being ripped into strips and devoured by a black hole. 

The powerful phenomenon caught the attention of scientists when a new blast of light near a known supermassive black hole was spotted by telescopes around the world. Months worth of follow-up observations made it clear they were seeing the destruction of a far-off sun as it happened.

“In this case the star was torn apart with about half of its mass feeding — or accreting — into a black hole of one million times the mass of the sun, and the other half was ejected outward,” explained astronomer Edo Berger from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in a statement.  

The violent scene is what astronomers call a tidal disruption event, which happens when a star comes too close to a black hole and gets shredded through a process of spaghettification — basically, the gravity of the black hole is so intense that it stretches whatever comes near vertically into long, thin shapes like pieces of spaghetti as it swallows it all up. 

The event, which goes by the catalog entry AT2019qiz and is the closest such flare ever seen at just 215 million light-years away, was caught early enough that scientists have been able to get a relatively unobscured view of the cosmic carnage before a cloud of star guts pulls a veil over the region.

“We

0

A mini fractal universe may lie inside charged black holes (if they exist)

Posted on

Black holes are perhaps the strangest, least-understood objects in our universe. With so much potential — being linked to everything from wormholes to new baby universes — they have sucked in physicists for decades. 

But as strange as these known objects are, even stranger types of black holes could be dreamed up. In one upside-down, hypothetical version of the universe, a bizarre type of black hole could exist that is stranger than an M.C. Escher sketch. Now, a team of researchers has plunged into the mathematical heart of so-called charged black holes and found a slew of surprises, including an inferno of space-time and an exotic fractal landscape … and potentially more.

Related: 9 ideas about black holes that will blow your mind

Welcome to a holographic superconductor

There are all sorts of potential, hypothetical black holes: ones with or without electric charge, ones spinning or stationary, ones surrounded by matter or those floating in empty space. Some of these hypothetical black holes are known for certain to exist in our universe; for example, the rotating black hole surrounded by infalling matter is a pretty common presence. We’ve even taken a picture of one.

But some other kinds of black holes are purely theoretical. Even so, physicists are still interested in exploring them — by diving into their mathematical foundations, we can realize new relationships and implications of our physical theories, which can have real-world consequences. 

One such theoretical black hole is an electrically charged black hole surrounded by a certain kind of space known as anti-de Sitter. Without getting into too much of the nitty-gritty, this kind of space has constant negative geometric curvature, like a horse saddle, which we know is not a good description of our universe. (A cosmos with anti-de Sitter space, all else being

0

Black hole-sized magnetic fields could be created on Earth, study says

Posted on

Scientists should be able to create magnetic fields on Earth that rival the strength of those seen in black holes and neutron stars, a new study suggests. 

Such strong magnetic fields, which would be created by blasting microtubules with lasers, are important for conducting basic physics, materials science and astronomy research, according to a new research paper authored by Osaka University engineer Masakatsu Murakami and colleagues. The paper was published Oct. 6 in the open-access journal Scientific Reports.

Most magnetic fields on Earth, even artificial ones, are not particularly strong. The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used in hospitals typically produces fields of around 1 tesla, or 10,000 gauss. (For comparison, the geomagnetic field that swings compass needles to the north registers between 0.3 and 0.5 gauss.) Some research MRI machines use fields as high as 10.5 tesla, or 105,000 gauss, and a 2018 lab experiment involving lasers created a field of up to about 1,200 tesla, or just over 1 kilotesla. But no one has successfully gone higher than that. 

Related: 9 cool facts about magnets

Now, new simulations suggest that generating a megatesla field — that is, a 1 million tesla field — should be possible. Murakami and his team used computer simulations and modeling to find that shooting ultra-intense laser pulses at hollow tubes just a few microns in diameter could energize the electrons in the tube wall and cause some to leap into the hollow cavity at the center of the tube, imploding the tube. The interactions of these ultra-hot electrons and the vacuum created as the tube implodes leads to the flow of electric current. The flow of electric charges is what creates a magnetic field. In this case, the current flow can amplify a pre-existing magnetic field by two to

0

Shelter in place lifted after a threat over its Black Lives Matter mural

Posted on

A “shelter in place” order at the University of North Carolina Asheville was lifted Friday evening after the university received a threatening email demanding that a Black Lives Matter mural on campus be painted over.



a car parked on the side of a road: Entrances to the UNC Asheville campus are blocked Friday after the campus is locked down over an emailed threat demanding the university paint over a Black Lives Matter mural.


© Angeli Wright/Asheville Citizen-Times/USA Today Network
Entrances to the UNC Asheville campus are blocked Friday after the campus is locked down over an emailed threat demanding the university paint over a Black Lives Matter mural.

The university announced Friday morning that it was canceling all classes and campus activities for the day, advising residential students to stay in place and nonessential personnel to return home.

Loading...

Load Error

Chancellor Nancy J. Cable said in a statement that the order was lifted at 7 p.m. Friday “in consultation with federal, state, and local law enforcement.”

“Today has been a challenging time for UNC Asheville and I am grateful for your support and cooperation,” Cable said. “I encourage every member of our campus community to remain vigilant. Please take care of one another. We remain fully committed to our University values of diversity, equity and inclusion. Black Lives Matter.”

A safety alert sent by the university just after 8:30 a.m. Friday said that “several offices at the University received an email communicating a direct threat to members of the UNC Asheville community. The email demanded that the Black Lives Matter mural on University Heights on campus be painted over.”

“A decision has been made to send a Bulldog Alert to all faculty, staff, and students to shelter in place until further notice. We ask that employees, other than essential personnel, stay away from campus today.”

The university did not specify the details of the threat, but said in the alert that it would continue to update the campus community. Officials said the campus would remain closed at least

1 2 3