Scientists analyzing archival data collected during night sky surveys using artificial intelligence algorithms recently encountered an event they theoretically shouldn’t miss. Detailed analysis determined that the event was the tearing apart of a bright massive star by tidal interactions of a supermassive black hole the star had come too close to.
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When the detectors spotted a very bright glow in the sky, they automatically assigned it a random designation — in this case ZTF20abrbeie — they stored it in a database, and for a very long time no one paid any attention to it. Fortunately, a re-analysis, this time by researchers at Purdue University, revealed this surprising event.
ZTF20abrbeie instantly transformed into a “scary Barbie”
At least that’s what scientists use to describe it. The adjective is attention-grabbing, but it’s supposed to describe the incredible clarity of the event, and barbie is just a word similar to the “abrbeie” cluster that a computer fires automatically.
As they write in Scientific article published in Astrophysical Journal Letters Researchers, in this case we are dealing with a supermassive black hole in which a massive star has fallen into a trap. The tidal interactions of the nearby black hole meant that the gravitational force on the part of the star closest to the black hole was much stronger than on the part of the star farther away. As a result, I became spaghetti. First, it was stretched to the limit, then it was torn apart and turned into a stream of matter that gradually descended beyond the horizon of the black hole.
It should be noted here that such events have been observed by astronomers in many places in the universe before. However, it never lasted for long or was as obvious as in this case. So you might ask, why hasn’t anyone noticed the creepy Barbie before?
It is the darkest darkness under the lamppost
Astronomers point out several aspects of the event itself: First of all, it happened very far away and in an area of the sky that not many telescopes are looking at. No one would likely have noticed were it not for the REFITT (Recommendation Engine for Intelligent Transient Tracking) algorithm, which analyzes observational data from many telescopes around the world. Cleaning through huge datasets requires the right techniques to efficiently filter millions of alarms, notifications, and alerts of really interesting events in space. Training such algorithms requires telling computers what to look for. However, as the scientists point out, no one told the REFITT algorithm to look for such bright objects like this, because no one expected such objects to exist. impact? A very fascinating phenomenon has been hidden in the data for many years.
After observing the event, scientists began poring over data from telescopes installed at the Lake Observatory in California and the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Only data from these telescopes made it possible to determine the origin of the flare. Interestingly, it turns out that while most so-called transitional events last a few weeks or months max, the creepy Barbie has shone for more than 800 days and will probably shine for a few more years. But now more telescopes are sure to be looking in its direction.
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