Welcome to the future, where mutant supermassive black holes can completely shred up an innocent star that’s wandered too close to its powerful gravitational tidal forces.
For the first time, astronomers have witnessed a star the size of our Sun being completely ripped apart and destroyed by a supermassive black hole. Like something out of a doomsday flick, the star is sucked in and churned into a disk of debris around the hole.
As the feeding frenzy continues, stellar remnants not swallowed shot out into space at the speed of light by powerful magnetic fields forming plasma jets.
The black hole, named All Sky Automated Survey for Supernova 14Li, or more appropriately abbreviated to ASASSN-14Li is 300 million light-years away and is a million times more massive than the sun.
Despite being so far away, ASASSN-14Li’s breakfast with a side of star debris was witnessed over just weeks. “This is happening so quickly that we can observe the evolution of this process on human time scales,” says Dr Gemma Anderson of Curtin University.
In fact, it’s the first time a tidal disruption event – which is a star being destroyed by a supermassive black hole – has been found through optical telescope surveys and scientists have been able to see plasma jets with a radio telescope.
“The jets being observed coming from this event are producing more energy than the Sun produces in 10 million years,” says Dr Anderson. Yep, that’s far more energy than we’re ballsy enough to deal with.