Scientists study supermassive black hole that may have destroyed giant star

2023-08-25 17:09:00

Astronomers at the University of Michigan published, last Monday (21), a study that analyzes a supermassive black hole located 290 million light years from Earth. Among its characteristics that most attract attention, what aroused the curiosity of scientists are the traces that the “galactic monster” may have destroyed a giant star.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton hosted an analysis of the amount of nitrogen and carbon near the supermassive black hole that annihilated the star. Astronomers theorize that these elements were created inside the star before it was destroyed approaching the event horizon.

Known as a tidal disturbance event, this phenomenon is characterized by cases in which a star gets too close to a supermassive black hole and ends up being destroyed by its gravitational force, suffering the stretching and compression effect that astronomers call “spaghettitification”. .

Discovered in 2014, the tidal disturbance event in question was named “ASASSN-14li”, standing out for occurring in a galaxy relatively close to Earth, which contributed to the initial analyzes being rich in detail.

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In the new study, specialists analyze phenomena that preceded the destruction of the star using new technologies, finally allowing the mass of the devoured star to be analyzed.

“We’re seeing the guts of what used to be a star,” said Jon Miller of the University of Michigan, who led the study. “The elements left behind are clues we can follow to figure out what kind of star has met its end.”

The new analyzes show that the relative amount of nitrogen in relation to carbon points to a massive star. This made it possible to discover that ASASSN-14li resulted in the destruction of one of the most massive stars astronomers have detected in a tidal disruption event to date.

“ASASSN-14li is exciting because one of the hardest things with tidal disruptions is being able to measure the mass of the unlucky star, as we did here,” said co-author Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The results pave the way for future studies. Astronomers have observed moderately massive stars — such as the ASASSN-14li star — in the stellar cluster that contains the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, our galaxy, which would allow discovering more information about the celestial bodies that inhabit our neighborhood.

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