Studies Find Echoes of Black Holes Eating Stars

Wise_wise2016-001_1024

wise_WISE2016-001 September 15th, 2016

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star as it is being devoured by a supermassive black hole in a tidal disruption flare.

When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole -- close enough to be gravitationally disrupted -- the stellar material gets stretched and compressed as it falls into the black hole. In the process of being accreted, the gas heats up and creates a lot of optical and ultraviolet light, which destroys nearby dust but merely heats dust further out. The farther dust that is heated emits a large amount of infrared light. In recent years, a few dozen such flares have been discovered, but they are not well understood.

Astronomers gained new insights into tidal disruption flares thanks to data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Studies using WISE data characterized tidal disruption flares by studying how surrounding dust absorbs and re-emits their light, like echoes. This approach allowed scientists to measure the energy of flares from stellar tidal disruption events more precisely than ever before.

JPL manages and operates WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The spacecraft was put into hibernation mode in 2011, after it scanned the entire sky twice, thereby completing its main objectives. In September 2013, WISE was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA's efforts to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

Provider: Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer

Image Source: /image/wise/WISE2016-001

Curator: Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, Berkeley, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Public Domain

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Image Details

Image Type
Artwork
Subject - Local Universe
Galaxy > Activity > AGN
Star > Evolutionary Stage > Black Hole
Wise_wise2016-001_1280
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ID
WISE2016-001
Subject Category
C.5.3.2   C.3.1.10  
Subject Name
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)
Release Date
2016-09-15
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/wise/WISE2016-001
Type
Artwork
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
URL
http://wise.astro.ucla.edu
Name
Email
outreach@ssl.berkeley.edu
Telephone
Address
7 Gauss Way
City
Berkeley
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
94720
Country
USA
Rights
Public Domain
Publisher
Publisher ID
wise
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/wise/WISE2016-001
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2020-06-05T02:49:30Z
Metadata Version
1.2
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