A radio jet from the optical and X-ray bright stellar tidal disruption flare ASASSN-14li

Journal: Science

Published: 2016-01-01

DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1182

Affiliations: 8

Authors: 14

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Research Highlight

Supermassive black hole burp detected from 300 million light years away

© NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, CI Lab

© NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, CI Lab

An international team has detected the gassy lunch remnants of an impolite supermassive black hole.

When a star has the misfortune to veer too close to the maw of a supermassive black hole, intense gravitational forces tear it to pieces. The resulting debris joins the disk of rubble orbiting the mouth of the black hole and is eventually sucked in.

Astronomers have known for a long time that a pulse of heat, known as a tidal disruption flare, accompanied the demise of such stars. But, this study, published in Science, is the first time observations were sensitive enough to detect the accompanying outflow from the black hole. This took the form of a brief, relativistic plasma jet — a bit like a hearty belch after a particularly stellar meal.

The energy released in the cosmic belch was equivalent to the Sun’s entire energy output over 10 million years. The team included researchers from Curtin University.

  1. Science 2016; 351: 62-65. doi: 10.1126/science.aad1182
Institutions FC WFC
Institute of Astronomy (IoA), University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK) 0.21 0.21
Oxford Department of Physics, United Kingdom (UK) 0.18 0.18
Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy, JHU, United States of America (USA) 0.14 0.14
Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory (CAL), CU, United States of America (USA) 0.14 0.14
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Australia 0.11 0.11
Department of Astrophysics, RU, Netherlands 0.11 0.11
Department of Physics, GW, United States of America (USA) 0.07 0.07
SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Netherlands 0.04 0.04