thodelu writes with news that astronomers recently got a look at what they believe is a star falling into a black hole. Phil Plait explains: "As the star approached this bottomless pit, the side of the star facing the black hole was pulled far harder than the other side of the star, which may have been a million or more kilometers farther away from the black hole. This change in pull stretched the star — this stretching is called a 'tide,' and is essentially the same thing that causes tides on the Earth from the Moon’s gravity and when the star wandered too close to the black hole, the strength of that pull became irresistible, overcoming the star’s own internal gravity. In a flash, the star was torn apart, and octillions of tons of ionized gas burst outward! This material whipped around the black hole, forming a disk of plasma called an accretion disk. Magnetic fields, friction, and turbulence superheated the plasma, and also focused twin beams of matter and energy which blasted out from the poles of the disk, away from the black hole itself. The energy stored in these beams is incredible, crushing our imagination into dust: for a time, they shone with the light of a trillion Suns!"
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