For the first time, astronomers tracked the first stages of the destruction of a star by a black hole

(ORDO NEWS) — For the first time, astronomers have tracked how a jet is born – a narrow beam of matter resulting from the approach of a star to a dangerous distance with a supermassive black hole and the subsequent destruction of the star.

This was announced on Wednesday by the press service of the California Institute of Technology. “The last time flashes of this super-rare class were recorded by astronomers was more than 10 years ago.

The discovery of the AT2022cmc event allowed us to follow the first stages of a star’s tidal break, as well as to discover evidence that matter ejections occur in only 1% of such cataclysms,” said the University Associate Professor Minnesota in Minneapolis (USA) Michael Coughlin, quoted by the press service of the California Institute of Technology.

Supermassive black holes, which are present at the centers of virtually all galaxies, occasionally capture and destroy neighboring stars and gas accumulations, periodically approaching black holes at dangerous distances.

Such cataclysms sometimes give rise to powerful flashes of light and beams of matter accelerated to near-light speed. Scientists have long been interested in how these emissions occur.

In February 2022, as noted by Coughlin and his colleagues, the automated ZTF telescope recorded the outburst AT2022cmc, which lasted several days and was presumably generated by a tidal break in the star.

Its source is located in the constellation Coma Berenices, 8.48 billion light-years from Earth, so we see this object in the state in which it was in the era of the youth of the universe.

Consequences of the meeting of a black hole and a star

The new methods of data analysis developed by Coughlin and his colleagues helped astronomers quickly identify the nature of this outburst and study the star’s tidal gap in the early stages of this event using optical as well as radio wave, microwave and X-ray telescopes.

The information collected by scientists helped them calculate the speed of rotation of the black hole, as well as determine its approximate size and other properties.

According to the current estimates of astrophysicists, the AT2022cmc flare was generated by a fairly rapidly rotating black hole, which belonged either to the category of large intermediate-mass black holes, or relatively modest-mass supermassive black holes.

It destroyed a star in a very short time and turned it into a cloud of plasma, which was comparable in size to the diameter of the Earth’s orbit.

The interactions of this gas with the attraction of a rapidly rotating black hole, as scientists suggest, caused some of this matter to accelerate to near-light (99%) speed and very quickly reach open space, where this gas collided with other accumulations of matter.

This led to a sharp deceleration of the ejection and the formation of powerful flashes of visible light, radio waves and microwave radiation, whose brightness was record high in the case of AT2022cmc.

Such processes, as scientists’ calculations show, occur very rarely, only in 1% of the cases when stars are captured by the attraction of large black holes.

This explains why, in the entire history of observations, astronomers have recorded only four flares similar in their properties to AT2022cmc, summed up Coughlin and his colleagues.


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