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What Happens To A Star After It Gets Spaghettified By A Black Hole?
In 2019, astronomers observed a star venturing too close to a black hole and becoming spaghettified — a phenomenon where the object, due to the black hole’s tremendous gravity, is stretched out like a noodle (compressed horizontally while lengthened vertically). A new study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomy Society explains what happened next to the star.
After spaghettification — or its more technical term, tidal disruption — a large amount of the star’s matter was thrown outward at speeds of up to 10,000 kilometers per second. This matter formed a cloud of gas around the black hole in a spherical shape, which made the event hard to observe as the gas blocked much of the view, but researchers looked at the polarization of the light.
Polarization refers to the direction in which the light waves vibrate, and by looking at it, the researchers could see that the cloud of gas was symmetrically spherical. This was the first time that the shape of such a gas cloud had been ascertained, and also helped to support the theory that these tidal disruptions are accompanied by strong winds of gas blowing away from the black hole.