Astronomers Watch Ruthless Black Hole Tear Apart A Star: Tidal Disruption Explained


Ever thought about going near a black hole? Well, NASA has confirmed that you probably shouldn't. A new animation released by the agency shows what happens when a star gets torn apart by the gravitational pull of a black hole.

In the animation, the star passes a little too close to the black hole, at which point its gravitational pull takes hold. Massive tidal forces then rip the star to pieces with some of the debris being catapulted into space and some of it falling around the black hole and forming a massive gaseous disk.

While the animation is an artist's rendering, it is supposed to illustrate a particular interaction between the star and black hole, which has been observed by three X-ray telescopes. The interaction is known as ASASSN-14li, and is located about 290 million light years away at the center of a galaxy.

Researchers were able to observe this interaction by looking at X-rays surrounding it. When a star is destroyed by a black hole, the debris around it is heated up by a few million degrees, at which point it brightly glows with X-ray light.

Of course, stars aren't the only potential victims of black holes. Black holes are extremely dense meaning that nothing at all, including light, is able to escape their pulls. Experts suggest that if a person went too near to a black hole they would be stretched into a very long tube-like figure before being blasted into many subatomic particles.

If that person wasn't blasted into a million pieces, they might instead find themselves in another universe, with Stephen Hawking theorizing that black holes lead to these alternate universes. That, however, is probably not a chance that you really want to take.

Check out the animation for yourself below.

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