Evidence of a star trapped by a supermassive black hole’s gravity in a process that involves the stellar victim being turned into a long filament before being swallowed up, has been discovered by scientists.
According to space.com, these thin dead star strips have been spotted for the first time – the only previous clue that they existed “came in the form of short bursts of electromagnetic radiation” that were sometimes observed emanating from supermassive black holes.
A team of astronomers from the Netherlands Institute for Space Research and Radboud University has reportedly detected this "spaghettified star" in spectral absorption lines around the black hole’s poles.
As the media outlet explains, absorption lines are the "unusually dark lines detected in the otherwise continuous spectrum of electromagnetic radiation" emitted by a source, which emerge when "material that absorbs part of the electromagnetic radiation" end up obscuring said source – in this case, the source is a black hole, while the absorbing material is the remains of a star.
The science team believes that the material detected is not part of the black hole’s accretion disk, with the study’s lead author Giacomo Cannizzaro arguing that the absorption lines are "narrow" and "not broadened by the Doppler effect, like you'd expect when you would be looking at a rotating disk."
The team also said that they knew that they were facing the black hole’s pole due to the presence of X-rays.
"The accretion disk is the only part of a black hole system that emits this type of radiation," the researchers said in a statement. "If we were looking edge-on, we wouldn't see the accretion disk's X-rays."