ESO telescopes record last moments of star devoured by a black hole — ScienceDaily

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Using telescopes from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and other organisations around the world, astronomers have spotted a rare blast of light from a star being ripped apart by a supermassive black hole. The phenomenon, known as a tidal disruption event, is the closest such flare recorded to date at just over 215 million light-years from Earth, and has been studied in unprecedented detail. The research is published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“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,” says Matt Nicholl, a lecturer and Royal Astronomical Society research fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK, and the lead author of the new study. But these tidal disruption events, where a star experiences what’s known as spaghettification as it’s sucked in by a black hole, are rare and not always easy to study. The team of researchers pointed ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT) at a new flash of light that occurred last year close to a supermassive black hole, to investigate in detail what happens when a star is devoured by such a monster.

Astronomers know what should happen in theory. “When an unlucky star wanders too close to a supermassive black hole in the centre of a galaxy, the extreme gravitational pull of the black hole shreds the star into thin streams of material,” explains study author Thomas Wevers, an ESO Fellow in Santiago, Chile, who was at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK, when he conducted the work. As some of the thin strands of stellar material fall into the black hole during this spaghettification process, a bright flare of energy is released, which astronomers

Black hole kills star by ‘spaghettification’ as telescopes watch

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Telescopes have captured the rare light flash from a dying star as it was ripped apart by a supermassive black hole

This rarely seen “tidal disruption event” — which creates spaghettification in stars as they stretch and stretch – is the closest such known event to happen, at only 215 million light-years from Earth. (For comparison, the nearest star system to Earth – Alpha Centauri — is roughly 4 light-years away, and the Milky Way is roughly 200,000 light years in diameter.) One light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). 

“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,” the new study’s lead author Matt Nicholl, a lecturer and Royal Astronomical Society research fellow at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, said in a European Southern Observatory statement. Researchers caught the event in action using numerous telescopes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope and New Technology Telescope.

Related: The strangest black holes in the universe

An artist’s illustration of a star’s death by “spaghettification” as it is ripped to shreds by a supermassive black hole. Scientists using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope has spotted such an event. (Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

“When an unlucky star wanders too close to a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy, the extreme gravitational pull of the black hole shreds the star into thin streams of material,” co-author Thomas Wevers said in the same statement. Wevers is an ESO Fellow in Santiago, Chile and was at the Institute of Astronomy at the United Kingdom’s University of Cambridge when he did the work. 

It has been difficult to see these events

Transportable radio telescopes could provide global high-precision comparisons of the best atomic clocks. — ScienceDaily

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Using radio telescopes observing distant stars, scientists have connected optical atomic clocks on different continents. The results were published in the scientific journal Nature Physics by an international collaboration between 33 astronomers and clock experts at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT, Japan), the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM, Italy), the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF, Italy), and the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM, France).

The BIPM in Sèvres near Paris routinely calculates the international time recommended for civil use (UTC, Coordinated Universal Time) from the comparison of atomic clocks via satellite communications. However, the satellite connections that are essential to maintaining a synchronized global time have not kept up with the development of new atomic clocks: optical clocks that use lasers interacting with ultracold atoms to give a very refined ticking. “To take the full benefit of optical clocks in UTC, it is important to improve worldwide clock comparison methods.” said Gérard Petit, physicist at the Time Department at BIPM.

In this new research, highly-energetic extragalactic radio sources replace satellites as the source of reference signals. The group of SEKIDO Mamoru at NICT designed two special radio telescopes, one deployed in Japan and the other in Italy, to realize the connection using the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). These telescopes are capable of observations over a large bandwidth, while antenna dishes of just 2.4 meter diameter keep them transportable. “We want to show that broadband VLBI has potential to be a powerful tool not only for geodesy and astronomy, but also for metrology.” commented SEKIDO. To reach the required sensitivity, the small antennas worked in tandem with a larger 34 m radio telescope in Kashima, Japan during the measurements taken from October 14 2018 to February 14 2019. For the Kashima

Get lost in Hubble telescope’s breathtaking view of stars being born

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The Great Barred Spiral Galaxy is located around 60 million light-years from Earth.


ESA/Hubble/NASA/J. Lee/PHANGS-HST Team/Acknowledgment: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)

I don’t know about you, but I’m just about ready to pack my gear, crawl into a cryogenic sleep pod and take a spaceship to some other galaxy. I’ve got my eyes on a real looker: the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy, also less romantically known as NGC 1365.

The Hubble Space Telescope, a joint project from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), captured a stunning portrait of NGC 1365, a faraway place where stars form. 

“The bright, light-blue regions indicate the presence of hundreds of baby stars that formed from coalescing gas and dust within the galaxy’s outer arms,” ESA said in a statement shared by NASA on Friday. That sounds so sweet.

The image comes from a Hubble collaboration with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile. The Phangs (Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby Galaxies ) joint survey “is expected to uncover and clarify many of the links between cold gas clouds, star formation, and the overall shape and morphology of galaxies,” according to ESA.

The Great Barred Spiral Galaxy is located in the constellation Fornax (the furnace), which seems like it would be cozy. It’s 60 million light-years from Earth. That should give me enough space to stretch out a little. 

Just kidding, Earth. I still love you.

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L3Harris gets $119 million Space Force contract for deep-space telescopes

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The contract is to upgrade and expand the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System that track objects in geostationary orbits.

WASHINGTON — L3Harris Technologies received a $119.1 million contract to upgrade and expand the network of U.S. military telescopes known as the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System that track objects in geostationary orbits.

The contract, announced Sept. 21 by the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, funds upgrades to existing GEODSS sensors, and the design of new ground-based optical sensors in European and Pacific sites.

The work is to be completed by June 2024. The contract will be worth $218 million if all options are exercised to build the two new sites in Spain and Australia.

L3Harris is responsible to maintain and modernize the military’s network of space surveillance sensors under a 10-year $1.2 billion contract awarded in February 2020 known as MOSSAIC, short for maintenance of space situational awareness integrated capabilities.

There are currently three GEODSS sites — on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean; at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; and in Maui, Hawaii.

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