Astronomers have recently spotted how, in the galaxy PGC 043234, a supermassive black hole is eating a planet alive.
The galaxy in question, PGC 043234, is located some 290 million light years away from Earth, making this event the closest one to home that has happened in the past ten years. The galaxy sports a massive black hole in its middle, that is simply so huge, weighing approximately a few million times the mass of our sun, and has such a big gravitational pull that is now literally destroying a nearby planet.
This event has been dubbed by astronomers a “tidal disruption” and it represents what happens to a planet when it gets too close to a black hole. The killer’s gravitational pull is simply too strong for the planet to resist and so it gets pulled apart.
The amazing phenomenon was observed on Wednesday by a team of astronomers lead by Jon Miller. They used a trifecta of telescopes to see the bloody show: NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer and ESA’s XMM Newton. All of these telescopes gathered information for the paper the astronomers ultimately published, about the tidal disruption event, called ASASSN-14li.
It resulted, astronomers say, in two kinds of radiation, X rays and optical light. The X-rays visible for scientists on earth via telescope are caused by the fact that the black hole pulls most of the planet’s material down and heats it up to millions of degrees, which causes the flare they saw through the Chandra telescope.
Researchers have also discovered that there is some X-ray absorbing material beyond the disc of the black hole as well. They say this could be outflowing gas, which is currently flying away from the black hole using wind. It could also be a stream of gas that is going towards the black hole, but that is currently and temporarily set on another orbit.
However that may be, they have come to the conclusion that a big percent of the X rays are being produced by some material found close to the disc. In the end, these filaments that produce the X-Rays will merge into a very hot disc that will glow bright, as the wind does not move at enough speed to escape being sucked into the supermassive black hole.
The event has been extremely important for us, the team of astronomers says, as it has given us an important sight of what happens when a planet gets too close to a black hole and the latter decides to consume it. Usually, black holes situated at the center of galaxies are content with eating just gas and flying debris, but this planet was too tantalizing a meal to pass.
A black hole is formed when a dying star collapses on itself.
Image Source: www.pinterest.com