We Watched As A Nearby Star Was Sucked In And ‘Spaghettified’ By A Monster Black Hole, Say Scientists

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A star in the act of being devoured by a supermassive black hole. It’s the latest incredible cosmic phenomenon tracked and traced by astronomers using giant telescopes.

This iconic “tidal disruption event”—named “AT2019qiz”—occurred 215 million light-years away, which makes it the closest observed so far. 

“The idea of a black hole “sucking in” a nearby star sounds like science fiction, but this is exactly what happens in a tidal disruption event,” said Dr Matt Nicholl, a lecturer and Royal Astronomical Society research fellow at the University of Birmingham in the UK, and lead author of the paper published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“We were able to investigate in detail what happens when a star is eaten by such a monster,” he added.

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What is a ‘tidal disruption event?’

It’s when a star gets too close to a black hole and thus gets pulled apart by the black hole’s extreme gravitational pull. “An unfortunate star in the nucleus of a galaxy can find itself on an orbit that intersects the tidal radius of the central supermassive black hole,” reads the paper. “This destruction can power a very luminous flare.” That’s exactly what the researchers saw.

What happened to the star?

It was shredded