Another year, another opportunity for NASA’s good old Hubble telescope to show what it’s made of! The over three decades old telescope has discovered a star destroyed by a black hole in such a greedy way that the former space object has taken the shape of a donut.
Astronomers have used the Hubble telescope to study a “tidal disruption event” in which the black hole in question leads to the star taking a donut shape. The event, which occurred at the core of the galaxy ESO 583-G004, is nearly 300 million light-years away, but the telescope’s powerful ultraviolet sensitivity allowed scientists to study the light from the shredded star, which included hydrogen, carbon, and more. NASA provided the news about the fascinating discovery.
The data collected provides clues to the black hole’s behavior and how it devours its prey. This is one of about 100 tidal disruption events around black holes that have been detected by astronomers using various telescopes.
Peter Maksym from the CfA stated:
We’re looking somewhere on the edge of that donut. We’re seeing a stellar wind from the black hole sweeping over the surface that’s being projected towards us at speeds of 20 million miles per hour (three percent the speed of light),
We really are still getting our heads around the event. You shred the star and then it’s got this material that’s making its way into the black hole. And so you’ve got models where you think you know what is going on, and then you’ve got what you actually see. This is an exciting place for scientists to be: right at the interface of the known and the unknown.
One amazing and amusing fact about the Hubble telescope is that it has been used to take a photograph of a galaxy that is so far away the light that we see left that galaxy over 13 billion years ago when the universe was only about 4% of its current age. This galaxy is called GN-z11 and was discovered by the telescope in 2016.