Watch this dreamy animation of a black hole tearing apart a passing star
By Loren Grush
on October 22, 2015 03:25 pm
If you need further evidence you should never go near a black hole, NASA has just the cautionary tale for you. A new animation from the space agency shows what it looks like when a star gets torn apart by a black hole's huge gravitational pull. In this artist rendering, the star passes close enough for the black hole's gravity to take hold, and immense tidal forces rip the star to pieces. During this process — known as "tidal disruption" — some of the stellar debris is flung out into space, while most of it falls around the black hole and forms a huge gaseous disk.
The video is meant to illustrate a very real interaction between a star and black hole that was observed by three different X-ray telescopes. Known as ASASSN-14li, this black hole-star interaction is located in the center of a galaxy 290 million light years away. Astronomers think that ASASSN-14li has a mass that's about a few million times that of our own Sun.
GETTING TOO CLOSE TO A BACK HOLE IS BAD NEWS FOR ANYONE
Researchers were able to observe the stellar debris disc form around the black hole by looking at the X-rays surrounding ASASSN-14li . When the black hole destroyed the passing star, the debris that fell toward the hole was heated up to millions of degrees, glowing brightly with X-ray light. Three telescopes — including NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory — were able to measure these X-rays, as well as the presence of powerful winds moving outward from the black hole. As the debris disk heats up, it expels gases outward at super high speeds in the form of wind.
Getting too close to a back hole is bad news for anyone, not just stars. Black holes are so incredibly dense that nothing — not even light — can escape their gravitational pulls. Experts have theorized that if a person were to fall into one, they'd stretch into a long spaghetti-like tube before dispersing into numerous subatomic particles.