Some 290 million years ago, a star much like the sun wandered too close to the central black hole of its galaxy.
Intense tides tore the star apart, which produced an eruption of optical, ultraviolet and X-ray light that first reached Earth in 2014.
Now, a team of scientists using observations from NASA’s Swift satellite have mapped out how and where these different wavelengths were produced in the event, named ASASSN-14li, as the shattered star’s debris circled the black hole.
This artist’s rendering shows the tidal disruption event named ASASSN-14li, where a star wandering too close to a 3-million-solar-mass black hole was torn apart.
The debris gathered into an accretion disk around the black hole.
Data from NASA’s Swift satellite show that the initial formation of the disk was shaped by interactions among incoming and outgoing streams of tidal debris.
News source: NASA. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.