When a star comes near to a black hole, it begins to get stretched, compressed, then eventually swallowed. NASA has observed several dozen of these moments, but has not been able to fully understand how it works. It is making progress recently because of data from its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which is measuring the energy from these stellar disruptions.
Even as it continues to learn about the process, it has released an illustration of the process at work. Here, a black hole eats up a fiery star.
[Image credit via NASA/JPL-Caltech] ES