A star’s unexpected survival

Hundreds of millions of light-years away in a distant galaxy, a star orbiting a supermassive black hole is being violently ripped apart under the black hole’s immense gravitational pull. As the star is shredded, its remnants are transformed into a stream of debris that rains back down onto the black hole to form a very hot, very bright disk of material swirling around the black hole, called an accretion disc. This phenomenon — where a star is destroyed by a supermassive black hole and fuels a luminous accretion flare — is known as a tidal disruption event (TDE), and it is predicted that TDEs occur roughly once every 10,000 to 100,000 years in a given galaxy.