This might be one of the most violent acts in the universe... but it sure is beautiful.
A new NASA animation shows what happens to a star when it passes too close to a black hole.
As you can imagine, it doesn't end well for the star.
"The black hole tears the star apart and starts swallowing material really quickly, but that’s not the end of the story," Jelle Kaastra of the Institute for Space Research in the Netherlands, co-author of a new study on black holes, said in a news release. "The black hole can’t keep up that pace so it expels some of the material outwards."
It's almost hypnotic:
The study published in Nature uses data from three orbiting X-ray telescopes to shine a light on what happens to a star as it gets sucked into a black hole.
The gravity of the black hole causes intense tidal forces to tug at the star and rip it apart. Some of it gets sucked into the black hole, but some of it gets flung outward into space at high speeds.
This results in an X-ray flare that can be seen for years.
The study was based on observations of a tidal disruption event called ASASSN-14li, which was first spotted in November 2014 and is taking place about 290 million light years away.
"We have seen evidence for a handful of tidal disruptions over the years and have developed a lot of ideas of what goes on," study leader Jon Miller of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor said in the news release. "This one is the best chance we have had so far to really understand what happens when a black hole shreds a star."
Over the summer, famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said something sucked inside a black hole may not be gone forever after all, but instead may come out in an alternate universe.
"The message of this lecture is that black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought," he said. "Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly come out in another universe."
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