Sometimes astronomers come up with awesome names for certain phenomena and then feel like they can’t use them in formal scientific contexts. Tidal Disruption Events (TDEs) are one of those – colloquially they are known as “spaghettifications” where a star is pulled apart until its constituent matter looks like a string of spaghetti.
Astronomers have long known of this process, which takes place when a star gets too close to a black hole, but most of that knowledge has come through studying radiation bursts emitted by the blackhole as it devoured the star. Now, a team led by Giacomo Cannizzaro and Peter Jonker from SRON, the Netherlands Institute for Space Research, and Radboud University now think they have captured the first glimpses of a star actively being spaghettified around the pole of a black hole.
An image of the accretion disk of the supermassive black hole as the center of M87.Credit: EHT Collaboration
Those filaments of material have never been imaged before, as most images instances of an “accretion disk”, as the disks of material surrounding black holes are known, have been seen from edge on, meaning they appear as a band of material in front of the black ...