TESS Catches its First Star-destroying Black Hole


For the first time, NASA’s planet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) watched a black hole tear apart a star from start to finish, a cataclysmic phenomenon called a tidal disruption event.

The blast, named ASASSN-19bt, was found on Jan. 29 by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), a worldwide network of 20 robotic telescopes. Shortly after the discovery, ASAS-SN requested follow-up observations by NASA’s Swift satellite, ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) XMM-Newton and ground-based 1-meter telescopes in the global Las Cumbres Observatory network.

The disruption occurred in TESS’s continuous viewing zone, which is always in sight of one of the satellite’s four cameras. This allowed astronomers to view the explosion from beginning to end.

This video shows images of a tidal disruption event called ASASSN-19bt taken by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Swift missions, along with an animation illustrating how it unfolded. Because ASASSN-19bt occurred in the TESS continuous viewing zone, the satellite observed the full duration of the event.




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