Black holes are one of the most mysterious celestial objects and are said to have enormous gravitational forces that help them absorb almost anything that comes close to them, even light. While this has long been known, scientists have recently made more interesting observations while studying the encounters of stars with black holes. In addition to the process of spaghettiization (where the black hole rips the star apart and stretches its material), the event saw some strong winds flow outward, sending the star’s material into space.

Astronomers from UC Berkeley used a specialized spectrometer at the Lick Observatory to analyze tidal disruption events. Using the instrument, the team focused on an event called AT2019qiz, in which a star came too close to the black hole.

The event occurred in a spiral galaxy in the constellation Eridanus, about 215 million light-years from Earth. The star was eventually shredded as entered the black hole authentication disk.

After this, the scientists decided to observe the destruction event in polarized light because looked too bright in optical light. With polarized light, waves travel in a plane, allowing astronomers to gain a deeper understanding of the consequences of events.

They noticed that during the event, most of the star’s matter did not enter the black hole’s mouth. Instead, some materials are scattered throughout the space. The wind generated by the black hole also causes a spherically symmetric high-velocity cloud composed of leftover celestial material.

The team recorded wind speeds of 10,000 kilometers per second. “This is the first time anyone has inferred the shape of a tidal-like cloud of gas around a star,” said team member Alex Filipenko, a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley.

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According to Kishore Patra, a graduate student and lead of the study, previously recorded evidence suggests that such tidal disruption events generate winds. “I think this polarization study definitely makes that evidence stronger, because without enough wind, you don’t get spherical geometry. The interesting fact here is that most of the inward-spinning matter in the star doesn’t end up Falling into a black hole — but being blown away from it,” Patra said.

Team member Wenbin Lu, assistant professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, shared that studying such tidal disturbance events is critical to understanding the existence of black holes and measuring their properties.

By Rebecca French

Rebecca French writes books about Technology and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Technology Shout, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller...