UNITED STATES: According to astronomers, an extremely bright flash that occurred in the night sky in February was caused by a black hole that was directly pointed at Earth.
This discovery is the farthest event ever documented by scientists and the first time one was discovered using visible light.
Two papers report the most recent findings. One was reported in Nature under the title “An extremely brilliant jet from the destruction of a star by a big black hole.” The other was published in Nature Astronomy with the title “The Birth of a Relativistic Jet Following the Disruption of a Star by a Cosmological Black Hole.”
According to scientists, the bright light that was directed toward Earth was caused by a star that got too close to a supermassive black hole and eventually met its demise, thereby being torn to pieces.
The extraordinary cosmic occurrence took place 8.5 billion light years from our planet. The Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory of the California Institute of Technology initially detected the signal from the bright explosion, known as AT 2022cmc, on February 11.
According to astronomers, when stars approach a black hole too closely, they are ripped to pieces, and the explosion is apparent across the cosmos. TDE, short for tidal disruption event, describes this occurrence.
Astronomers have already observed such occurrences, but AT 2022cmc is brighter than any found before. Additionally, it is the farthest object ever observed.
According to various sources, researchers think the star was swallowed up by a black hole, unleashing a tremendous amount of energy and launching a jet of material hurtling across space at speed close to that of light.
The jet’s direct trajectory toward Earth and subsequent “Doppler-boosting” effect are most likely what made the dazzling explosion appear so bright in our sky.
According to the paper, gamma-ray bursts—the powerful X-ray jets emitted when big stars collapse—typically account for the brightest flashes in the night sky. However, despite how dazzling they are, collapsing stars can only produce so much light.
“We recognized that AT 2022cmc must be powered by something extremely enormous—a supermassive black hole—because it was so luminous and continuous,” according to coauthor Dr. Benjamin Gompertz of the Nature Astronomy study.
Researchers also discovered that AT 2022cmc was “100 times more intense than the most powerful gamma-ray burst afterglow” ever seen, according to Dheeraj Pasham, study author of the Nature Astronomy report.
Why some tidal disruption events produce these jets while others do not is still a mystery to astronomers. They claimed that as more of these occurrences are observed, it may become apparent how black holes produce such potent space jets.