On Tuesday (August 22), scientists announced that they may have found evidence that the most massive star ever seen is being ripped apart by a black hole — and the giant accused of this crime appears to have literally thrown the insides of its stellar victim into the darkness of space. .
“We’re seeing the guts of what was a star,” said John Miller of the University of Michigan, who led a study on the findings. he said in a statement. “The items she left behind are clues we can follow to find out what kind of star died.”
This initial analysis led the team to believe that it had been destroyed a star It once harbored about three times the mass of our Sun, which means that it has only a bright monster attached to something known as “”Scary BarbieAn event reported earlier this year. Scary Barbie is the name given to a possible cosmic issue where a star with a staggering 14 times the mass of our Sun was obliterated by a black hole. For context, the Sun is 333,000 times the mass of the Earth, but there is A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the Scary Barbie event, as you will see below.
Recently studied event, dubbed ASASSN-14liIt looks more formal than Scary Barbie. And unlike the Scary Barbie star, there’s plenty of evidence for ASASSN-14li’s body size, thanks to new information from NASA. Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency XMM-Newton. But to be clear, ASASSN-14li was first discovered in 2014.
“Observing the destruction of a massive star by a supermassive black hole is fascinating because more massive stars are expected to be much less common than lower-mass stars,” says Enrico Ramirez Ruiz of the University of California, Santa Cruz, a co-author. study, according to the statement.
Related: The black hole jet surprised scientists with a “strange” radio signal
“These X-ray telescopes can be used as forensic tools in space,” co-author Brenna Mockler of the Carnegie Observatories and UCLA said in the release.
Events like ASASSN-14li and Scary Barbie that involve a black hole terrorizing a star are called tidal disturbance events, or TDEs. According to the press release, when the gravitational forces of a black hole begin to affect an unlucky star that gets too close, it sends out a glow that emits optical, ultraviolet, and X-ray wavelengths. This glow occurs in conjunction with the heating of the star’s debris.
Therefore, the researchers used two powerful tools to study the wavelengths with TDE roots and to learn the concentrations of elements surrounding the black hole in ASASSN-14li, which is located about 280 million light-years from Earth. In doing so, they analyzed the nitrogen-to-carbon ratio found in cosmic crime scenes in astonishing detail.
More importantly, this observed ratio appears to be consistent with what would be expected for a star three times more massive than the Sun, Muckler explained.
From there, the team saw that what they were studying was actually the “entrails” of a stricken star of such dimensions, caught in the grip of a supermassive black hole.
These results contrast with previous research, published in 2017, which indicated that the star in ASASSN-14li holds approximately 0.6 times the mass of our Sun. In fact, the team notes, some other studies have suggested that the gas surrounding the black hole in ASASSN-14li was not associated with a single star at all, but rather originated from a group of explosions emanating from the void itself.
“ASASSN-14li is exciting because one of the hardest things about tidal disturbances is being able to measure the mass of the unlucky star, as we did here,” Ramirez-Ruiz said.
But maybe the Scary Barbie star will live up to his wrestler-sounding name and finally take the cake. For now, the only evidence we have for this massive stellar object comes from the brightness of its glow, not its exact chemical composition. Perhaps we would be better off living in bliss, assuming that a world where supermassive black holes are tearing stars 14 solar masses apart might not be ours.
A paper was about these results published In the August 20 issue of Astrophysical Letters.