Supermassive black hole is tearing apart a star which got too close

Supermassive black hole is tearing apart a star which got too close
Artist's conception of a star torn apart into a thin stream of gas after getting too close to a supermassive black holeRobin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science.

  • A network of 20 robotic telescopes, ASAS-SN, just spotted a star getting shredded after getting too close to a black hole.
  • The black hole is 6 million times the mass of the Sun in our Solar System and located around 375 million light years away.
  • A Tidal Disruption Event (TDE) like this only occurs every 10,000 to 100,000 years making it extremely rare.
Astronomers spotted a star getting torn apart by supermassive black hole with a mass 6 million times greater than the Sun.

The Tidal Disruption Event (TDE) could only have occurred if the distance between the supermassive black hole and the star was at least as far as the Sun from the Earth, according to scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA).

TDEs occur when a supermassive black hole's forces are so strong that they overwhelm the star's own gravity and pull it apart.

They're also extremely rare, only occurring once every 10,000 to 100,000 years.

The event dubbed ASASSN-19bt occured around 375 million light years away from Earth in the constellation called Volans in a galaxy called 2MASX J07001137-6602251.

Scientists previously believed that all TDEs would look the same, but ASASSN-19bt is unusual in several ways.

Everything that makes this TDE special

This is the first time that NASA has been able to capture a TDE in so much detail using its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

"The early TESS data allow us to see light very close to the black hole, much closer than we've been able to see before," stated Patrick Vallely, co-author of the discovery published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Using those observations, astronomers were able to determine ASASSN 19bt's host galaxy is younger and has a lot more dust as compared TDEs observed in the past.

Unlike other TDEs, ASASSN-19bt also showed a temperature drop was seen early during the tidal disruption — also a first.

The tidal disruption saw a 50% drop in temperature. It went from 40,000 degrees Celsius to 20,000 degrees Celsius over the span of a few days.

A network of 20 robotic telescopes, All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), initially noticed that there was something brewing in the distant galaxy.

After that Thomas Holoien, the lead author of the study, roped in the help of other telescopes around the world.

"Only a handful of TDEs have been discovered before they reached peak brightness and this one was found just a few days after it started to brighten" said Holoien.