‘Scary Barbie’ object discovered in space
Astrophysical Journal Letters: ZTF20abrbeie was the brightest star destruction event
Astronomers have discovered traces of a star that was torn apart by a black hole but went unnoticed for years. This is reported in an article accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and available on the arXiv website.
The researchers reported the discovery of the transient ZTF20abrbeie, also nicknamed Scary Barbie, a brightness-changing object that turned out to be a black hole in the process of consuming the material of a broken star. According to astronomers, the destruction of the celestial body was one of the brightest transients in the Universe, but it is noteworthy that ZTF20abrbeie was not detected during the first observations in 2020.
The anomaly was detected only thanks to artificial intelligence REFITT (Recommender Engine For Intelligent Transient Tracking). The AI is analyzing data from various telescopes around the world, including the Zwicky Transient Facility instrument at the Palomar Observatory in California. REFITT reviews millions of transient candidates, highlighting the most interesting ones.
Once REFITT identified ZTF20abrbeie as an object of interest to astronomers, the scientists analyzed spectrographic data from other telescopes, including the Lick Observatory in California and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. It turned out that “Scary Barbie” is several orders of magnitude brighter and more energetic than other transients recorded by scientists earlier, and lasts much longer than usual. Most transients are noticeable within weeks or months, however ZTF20abrbeie has been going on for more than two years and may be visible in the coming years.