A colossal black hole swallowed a star whole and belched out a jet of particles as a team of scientists watched in awe.
A supermassive black hole 20 million times larger than our Sun recently consumed a star that drifted too close to it, Mashable reports.
"Never before have we been able to directly observe the formation and evolution of a jet from one of these events", Miguel Perez-Torres, of the Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia, another of the 36 total authors on the paper, said. On January 30, the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands captured a burst of infrared emission from the heart of one of the Arp 299 galaxies.
Monitoring that space region with an worldwide network of radio telescopes, including the European Interferometry Network (EVN), for more than a decade, allowed scientists to see the flash detected at radio wavelengths expand in one direction at a speed of about 75,000 kilometers per second, a quarter of the speed of light. The data revealed how the source of these emissions stretches in a single direction at around 25 percent of light speed - the way a jet would.
The vast power of a supermassive black hole's gravity pulled in a star, ripped it to shreds and then ate it, researchers said.
A "monster" black hole gradually eating a helpless star millions of light years from Earth has been tracked by scientists.
When the black hole devoured the star, it shot out a fast group of particles that contained 125 billion times the amount of energy that the sun releases annually.
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At its brightest, the flare outshone its parent galaxy's centre in the infrared and radio region, according to the paper in Science. Black holes that are deemed supermassive has a tendency to continuously draw matter toward itself and material that gets pulled toward it ends up forming a disc around the black hole itself.
TDEs are important to astronomy since they provide unique insight into the formation and evolution of jets in the vicinity of massive objects. Theorists suggest that material pulled from the star forms a rotating disk around the black hole, emitting intense X-rays and visible light.
"The most likely explanation is that thick interstellar gas and dust near the galaxy's center absorbed the X-rays and visible light, then re-radiated it as infrared", Seppo Mattila, a member of the team, said in a statement.
Astronomers noticed a bright explosion about Arp 299 and followed the changes over the decades.
Originally those jets, from Earth, appeared as a supernova. The background image is a Hubble Space Telescope image of Arp 299, a pair of colliding galaxies. After six years, researchers saw that the emission was getting elongated, dismissing the supernova theory.
The discovery, published today in the Science journal, was not what the astronomers originally expected to find.