NASA’s NuSTAR satellite, the space telescope most sensitive to X-rays, provided an unprecedented view of the formation and evolution of the corona.
A NASA telescope observed a massive black hole at the center of another galaxy, about 250 million light-years from Earth, devouring a rogue star that got too close. The finding marks the fifth-closest sighting ever observed of a star-destroying black hole.. These observations may help scientists understand more complex black hole feeding behaviors, they recently reported.
Once the black hole’s gravity completely broke the star apart, astronomers saw a dramatic increase in high-energy X-ray light around the black hole. This meant that as stellar material was pulled in, it formed an extremely hot structure on top of the black hole called the corona. The Nuclear Spectroscopy Telescopic Array (NuSTAR) satellite is the most sensitive space telescope capable of observing these wavelengths of light and the proximity of the event provided an unprecedented view of the formation and evolution of the corona.
The work shows how the destruction of a star by a black hole, a process formally known as a tidal disruption event, could be used to better understand what happens to material captured by one of these giants before it is completely devoured. The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal.
“Tidal disruption events are a kind of cosmic laboratory“said study co-author Suvi Gezari, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, US. “They are our window into a real-time feed from a huge black hole lurking in the center of a galaxy.”