Star-feeding black holes discovered

Astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered about two dozen black holes feeding on nearby stars. The discovery is reported in a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. Researchers recorded 18 tidal disruption events (TDEs), when the stars closest to a black hole are torn apart by tidal forces, and the absorbed debris causes bursts of energy visible across the electromagnetic spectrum. The number of new TDEs is more than double the catalog of known tidal disruption phenomena observed in space. The search for TDE was based on data from NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope, which operates in the infrared range. The scientists used an algorithm to detect temporary bursts of radiation and compared the detected transients to a catalog of all known galaxies within 600 million years. Next, bursts were selected that corresponded to the bursts expected by TDE. IR radiation makes it possible to detect bright objects hidden by thick layers of cosmic dust. Optical light and X-rays are blocked and absorbed by the dust, which heats up and produces significant infrared radiation. Most of the identified sources did not appear within optical range, leading scientists to suspect that TDE was actually much more common.