Astronomers have observed how a black hole sucks up a star and stretches it into a spaghetti string, European Southern Observatory (ESO) reports Monday. It is the clearest observation of ‘spaghettification’, the stretching of an object by the strong gravitational field of a black hole, to date.
The black hole is located just over 215 million light-years from Earth, making it the closest instance of spaghettiification ever seen. Being quite close, it could be seen very well. It is a star with about the same mass as our sun. The astronomers saw how about half of this was absorbed into the black hole, they write in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
In previous observations of this species, the event was also difficult to see, because a lot of debris and dust is thrown off when a black hole devours a star. This creates a ‘curtain’ of material that prevents the view. Now astronomers saw the cosmic violence quite early, while the debris and dust was being ejected. The material shoots away at speeds of up to 10,000 kilometers per second.
The event first stood out when a bright flash of light was seen near a massive black hole in 2019. The researchers then aimed the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the New Technology Telescope (NTT), both from ESO, at the black hole and were able to observe the event.
Cosmic events of this kind are rare and difficult to observe. The event of spaghettiification was first observed in 2018, but was described by the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, among others, in 1988.