Astronomers have observed a supermassive black hole swallowing a star 3.9 billion light years from Earth. The group used the European VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) network of telescopes, so big it’s described as “Earth-sized”, to observe the phenomenon.
Thanks to the scale of the telescope network, the radio astronomers were able to detect the event and note “record-sharp” observations, despite it being so far away. Interestingly, the network relies on different-sized telescopes to work accurately — the largest are more sensitive but those with a larger field-of-view (like the 25-m radio telescopes in China and Sweden) were equally important in the observation.
Following three years of observations, the group was able to confirm that the “relatavistic jets” — the ejection of a narrow stream of particles at the near-speed of light — remained static. The astronomers hope the garnered data will both give better insight into what happens when a super-massive black hole destroys a star but also how newly-formed jets respond to new conditions.
Source: Chalmers SE