Washington: In a first, researchers watched a supermassive black hole — weighing about 6 million times the Sun’s mass — shred a star apart in a cosmic cataclysm called a tidal disruption event.
The discovery made using NASA’s planet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) — with follow-up observations by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and other facilities — produced the most detailed look of the star-destroying event.
NASA said that tidal disruptions are incredibly rare, occurring once every 10,000 to 100,000 years in a galaxy the size of our own Milky Way, with only 40 such events observed so far.
“TESS data let us see exactly when this destructive event, named ASASSN-19bt, started to get brighter, which we’ve never been able to do before,” said Thomas Holoien, lead author of the study from the Carnegie Observatories in California.
“Because we identified the tidal disruption quickly with the ground-based All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), we were able to trigger multiwavelength follow-up observations in the first few days. The early data will be incredibly helpful for modeling the physics of these outbursts,” Holoien said.
The findings noted that the observed supermassive black hole was present at the centre of a galaxy called ‘2MASX J07001137-6602251’ which is located around 375 million light-years away in the constellation Volans.