Astronomers observed a star being swallowed by its host galaxy

Image credit: European Space Agency (ESA)/C. Carreau
Image credit: European Space Agency (ESA)/C. Carreau

Astronomers used a trio of X-ray telescopes – NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer, and ESA’s XMM-Newton – to observe a tidal disruption located in the center of a galaxy about 300 million light years away from us. This makes this event, dubbed ASASSN-14li, the closest tidal disruption discovered in ten years.

Astronomers have been studying this phenomenon, which occurs when a star gets too close to a supermassive black hole’s event horizon and is pulled apart by the black hole’s tidal forces, for over three decades, and in that time have detected dozens of black holes tearing apart and devouring stars in many galaxies, near and far.ASASSN-14li allowed the astronomers to measure, for the first time, the physical properties of a newly formed accretion disc, enabling them to investigate the initial phases of such a powerful event.

Further details about the event are available here.

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