Scientists discover rare tidal disturbance event in nearby galaxy

Photo credit: MIT researchers.

MIT scientists have made an intriguing discovery about a new tidal disruption event (TDE) that occurred near Earth.

This event occurs when a supermassive black hole ruptures a passing star, causing a burst of radiation that can be seen by telescopes on Earth and in space.

A TDE is a rare event, occurring about every 10,000 years, and it can be detected by the burst of light hitting telescopes.

Most of the light from a TDE comes from X-rays and optical radiation, but this new event glowed brightly in infrared, which is a different type of light.

The new TDE was discovered in a galaxy called NGC 7392, which is about 137 million light-years from Earth. This is astronomically quite close, being a quarter the size of the nearest TDE.

Scientists believe many more TDEs like this one have been missed because traditional methods of detecting them only look for X-rays and optical radiation, which can be obscured by dust.

The research team discovered the new TDE while looking for common transient sources in observational data. They used a special search tool to look for potential transient events in data recorded by a space telescope called NEOWISE, which has been scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths since 2010.

They spotted a bright flash appearing in the sky towards the end of 2014. They tracked the flash to a galaxy 42 megaparsecs from Earth and finally determined that it was most likely a TDE and the closest yet.

The scientists also discovered that the galaxy in which the TDE formed was actively producing new stars.

This is important because star-forming galaxies produce a lot of dust that can obscure any X-ray or UV radiation that would otherwise be picked up by optical telescopes. This could explain why astronomers have not detected TDEs in star-forming galaxies using conventional optical methods.

The team suggests that searching in the infrared could uncover many more previously hidden TDEs in active, star-forming galaxies.

“Finding this nearby TDE means that statistically there must be a large population of these events that traditional methods have been blind to,” says Christos Panagiotou, a postdoc at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

The new discovery has important implications for our understanding of black holes and their host galaxies. Black holes are fascinating objects that have puzzled scientists for decades. They are so massive that they warp spacetime around them, and nothing can escape their gravitational pull, not even light.

Scientists believe that every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its center. These black holes are thought to play an important role in the evolution of galaxies, but there’s still a lot we don’t understand about them.

The new discovery suggests there may be many more TDEs in star-forming galaxies than we previously thought. This is important because TDEs can tell us a lot about the properties of black holes and the galaxies they reside in.

The scientists believe that searching for TDEs in the infrared could fundamentally change our understanding of black holes and their host galaxies.

They suggest that if we want a complete picture of black holes and their host galaxies, we should try to find these events in the infrared.

In summary, the new discovery of a TDE in a nearby galaxy is an exciting development for astronomers. It shows that there may be many more TDEs in star-forming galaxies than we previously thought, and that searching for them in the infrared could reveal many more previously hidden events.

The discovery of TDEs is an important step in understanding the properties of black holes

Written by Jennifer Chu.

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