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Encounter with a black hole and survive: a star discovered that survived the event of tidal destruction.

Published: 2023-01-14

For the first time, an international team of physicists conducted a study of a unique event - partial tidal destruction and, most valuable, created a model of such phenomena. In a distant galaxy, a meeting of a star with a supermassive black hole was recorded, which only partially tore off the outer shell of the star and could not destroy it completely. This case will force scientists to take a fresh look at the evolution of black holes.

Researchers from the European Southern Observatory, Syracuse University and MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research published an article in The Astrophysical Journal Letters about the observation of the AT2018fyk tidal disruption event. At first everything went as usual. In the X-ray range, an increase in brightness was recorded, which gradually decreased and abruptly ended after 600 days (matter was torn off from the star and it accreted onto a black hole). But 1,200 days later, the object's brightness increased dramatically again, indicating a repeating event.

Up to this point, scientists have not recorded recurring tidal disruption events in the universe. According to estimates, a star lost from 1 to 10% of its matter when passing close to a supermassive black hole. If the loss approached 10%, then the observation of AT2018fyk would no longer show flares, which would mean that the black hole completely captured the material of the star. If a star loses about 1% of matter when approaching a black hole, then flares will be observed several more times.

The data obtained made it possible to create and test a model of recurring tidal disruption events on the simulator. For astrophysics, this means refining a number of physical characteristics of supermassive black holes, as well as scenarios for their evolution. Now scientists intend to re-examine all the facts of tidal disruption events previously seen in the Universe in order to understand how widespread this phenomenon is. At the very least, this can explain the repeated long-term flares of unknown origin from a single source from the depths of the universe.