Study provides new model for explaining observations of black hole radiation
A recent study proposes a new model to explain our observations of the radiation emitted from supermassive black holes following star consumption.

Tyler MacDonald | 4 hours ago

When stars wander too close to a supermassive black hole, they are torn apart by its gravity in a cataclysm known asa tidal disruption event (TDE), which creates a bright radiation flare. Now, a new study proposes a unified model that explains the recent observations of these violent events.

"Only in the last decade or so have we been able to distinguish TDEs from other galactic phenomena, and the new model will provide us with the basic framework for understanding these rare events," said the study's co-author Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

And although black holes typically remain in a state of dormancy, this all changes when they consume stars that get too close to them.

"It is interesting to see how materials get their way into the black hole under such extreme conditions," said Jane Lixin Dai, assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen and first author on the study. "As the black hole is eating the stellar gas, a vast amount of radiation is emitted. The radiation is what we can observe, and using it we can understand the physics and calculate the black hole properties. This makes it extremely interesting to go hunting for tidal disruption events."

The new model suggests that the viewing angle of the observer accounts for differences in observations of TDEs that have been noted over the years.

"It is like there is a veil that covers part of a beast," Ramirez-Ruiz said. "From some angles we see an exposed beast, but from other angles we see a covered beast. The beast is the same, but our perceptions are different."

"We will observe hundreds to thousands of tidal disruption events in a few years," Dai added. "This will give us a lot of 'laboratories' to test our model and use it to understand more about black holes."

The findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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