ESO telescopes record last moments of star devoured by a black hole — ScienceDaily
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
Transportable radio telescopes could provide global high-precision comparisons of the best atomic clocks. — ScienceDaily
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