Astronomers see a star’s last cry into a black hole halfway through the universe

(ORDO NEWS) — The light that traveled over 8.5 billion years to reach us was the last breath of a dying star as it was swallowed up by a black hole.

Two separate teams of scientists have determined that a mysterious glow that appeared in the sky in February 2022, called AT2022cmc, was an astrophysical jet that erupted from a massive black hole as the splintered star disappeared beyond its event horizon.

It’s incredibly rare for us to catch one of these meals in action, and AT2022cmc is now the most distant object we’ve ever seen.

“Scientists last detected one of these jets over a decade ago,” says astronomer Michael Coughlin of the Twin Cities University of Minnesota in the US.

“From the data we can estimate, relativistic jets are fired in only 1 percent of these disruptive events, making AT2022cmc an extremely rare occurrence. the event is one of the most spectacular ever observed.”

In our wild universe, many events and collisions supernovae, fast radio bursts, stellar collisions, interactions in compact binary systems, and hole-eating black frenzy are unpredictable, spewing temporary flashes of light that flash across the vastness of space and then disappear.

Only by carefully observing large areas of the sky can we catch the light of these colossal but short-lived cosmic events.

In February, the Zwicky Transition Center recorded just such an outbreak. Immediately, 20 other telescopes around the world and in space went to work, collecting a huge amount of data on the sudden outburst over the following days and weeks.

Based on this vast amount of information, a team of researchers – led by Coughlin and astronomer Igor Andreoni of the University of Maryland – determined that the event was due to tidal disruption.

Criminal? A rapidly spinning supermassive black hole with about 500 million times the mass of the Sun. It consumes stellar material at an incredible rate – half a sun a year.

Tidal disruption is extreme; they occur when a star gets too close to a black hole.

Tidal forces in the black hole’s gravitational field are pulling the star apart, pulling it so hard that it is torn apart. The debris from the star then falls into the black hole.

This process causes a flash of light that fades over time, but we can detect it from Earth if it’s bright enough.

This is not true. astronomers have seen what emits light from AT2022cmc.

“The first three days everything looked quite normal. We then looked at it with an X-ray telescope and found that the source was too bright,” says astronomer Deeraj Pasham of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the second study.

“This particular event was 100 times more powerful than the afterglow of the most powerful gamma-ray burst. It was something extraordinary.”

The analysis showed that the cause of the glow was an astrophysical jet. When a black hole is fed, sometimes not all of the material orbiting it ends up outside the event horizon.

Magnetic field lines just outside the event horizon act as particle accelerators; some material close to the black hole is directed along these lines, where it is ejected from the black hole’s poles at close to the speed of light.

In the case of AT2022cmc, one of these jets is pointing straight at us and traveling at 99.99% the speed of light.

When material is moving towards us at close to the speed of light, it appears brighter than it really is because the movement causes the frequency of the light’s wavelength to change.

This effect is known as relativistic radiation or Doppler enhancement because this change is known as the Doppler effect.

AT2022cmc is only the fourth Doppler-enhanced tidal disruption event ever detected.

Scientists expect we can learn a lot from this dying light, more than half the universe away. For example, it is not known why some cases of tidal disruption have jets and some do not. The rapid rotation of a black hole can contribute to the formation of jets.

It is also unclear how supermassive black holes form and grow. A high feed rate, such as that of the AT2022cmc black hole, could help solve this mystery.

This event was also the first burst of tidal disruption detected by an optical survey. The sheer amount of data collected will help astronomers identify more of them in the future.

Astronomy is changing rapidly,” says Andreoni.

“More and more optical and infrared all-sky surveys are already active or coming online soon. Scientists can use AT2022cmc as a model for what to look for and find more destructive events from distant black holes.

“This means that more than ever, big data mining is an essential tool to deepen our knowledge of the universe.”

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