Massive Black Hole Shreds Passing Star


What happens when a star gets too close to a black hole? Recent observations from Earth-orbiting observatories of an event dubbed ASASSN-14li, in a distant galactic center, appears to be giving one star’s harrowing story. Although angularly unresolved, variations in high energy light indicate that some of the star became shredded and reformed into a disk swirling around the dark abyss. In the hypothesized scenario envisioned, a jet formed on the spin axis of the black hole. The innermost part of the disk, colored white, glows most strongly in X-rays and may drive a periodic wind, shown in blue. Future X-ray and ultraviolet observations of stellar disruptions by black holes — including those in the center of our own galaxy — hold promise of telling us about the complex dynamics of some of the hottest and highest-gravity places in the universe.

Illustration Video Credit: NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight CenterCI Lab