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More Images of RX J1242-11
Chandra X-ray Image of RX J1242-11
A Chandra image of RX J1242-11 obtained on 2001 March 9 shows a single point source in blue. This source is about 200 times fainter than it was when observed with ROSAT 9 years earlier, making it one of the most extreme variability events ever detected in a galaxy. This variability, combined with the extreme brightness of the ROSAT source, and the position of the Chandra source in the middle of a galaxy all point to one explanation, that observers have witnessed accretion onto a supermassive black hole from the debris of a star that was torn apart by tidal forces.
Scale: Image is 40 arcsec on a side.
(Credit: NASA/CXC/MPE/S.Komossa et al.)

Optical Image of RX J1242-11
This optical image of RX J1242-11 was obtained with the 1.5m Danish telescope at ESO/La Silla, and had an exposure time of 7 minutes. A pair of galaxies are visible, with the white circle showing the position of the Chandra source in the center of the brighter galaxy, the expected location for a supermassive black hole.
Scale: Image is 40 arcsec on a side.
(Credit: ESO/MPE/S.Komossa)

Artist's Illustration of RX J1242-11
This illustration depicts how the catastrophic destruction of a star that wandered too close to a supermassive black hole may have occurred. A close encounter with another star put the doomed star (orange circle) on a path that took it near a supermassive black hole. The enormous gravity of the giant black hole stretched the star until it was torn apart. Because of the momentum and energy of the accretion process, only a few percent of the disrupted star's mass (indicated by the white stream) was swallowed by the black hole, while the rest of was flung away into the surrounding galaxy.
(Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

ROSAT X-ray Image of RX J1242-11
A German Roentgensatellite (ROSAT) image, obtained in July 1992, showing the bright source RX J1242-11 in blue. The brightness of this source is similar to that of active galactic nuclei and quasars. The large size and slightly asymmetric shape of the source is caused by its location a significant distance (40 arcminutes) away from the region that gives the sharpest possible images. The white square in the version on the right marks the 40 arcsec field of view of the Chandra image. No source was detected by ROSAT when observing the same field in January 1991. It is estimated that RX J1242-11 must have then been at least 20 times fainter than in July 1992.
Scale: Image is 20 arcmin on a side.
(Credit: MPE/S.Komossa)

XMM-Newton Spectrum & Illustration of RX J1242-11
This graphic shows the XMM-Newton spectrum, or X-ray energy signature, of RX J1242-11 alongside an artist's illustration of the event that was observed in this galaxy. The illustration shows a disk of gas being heated so that it glows in X-rays before being swallowed by the black hole. The gas in the disk is the debris from a star torn apart by tidal forces about 10 years earlier.
(Spectrum: ESA/XMM-Newton/S. Komossa et al.
Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss)

Illustrations of Star Ripped Apart by Giant Black Hole
This series of illustrations shows a yellow star that travels too close to a giant black hole in the center of the galaxy RX J1242-11. As it nears, the star is stretched by tidal forces from the black hole and is quickly torn apart. Most of the yellow gaseous debris from the star escapes the black hole in parabolic orbits. However, a small amount of material is captured by the black hole and then forms a rotating disk of gas. X-rays are emitted as the gas in the disk is heated (as shown by the blue color) and is gradually swallowed by the black hole, eventually emptying the disk.
(Illustration: ESA)

Illustration of Comet-Shoemaker-Levy Collision with Jupiter
This illustration shows the first piece of the remains of Comet Shoemaker/Levy crashing into Jupiter. This event occurred in 1994 after tidal forces from Jupiter caused the comet to break up into 21 separate pieces. Although on a very different scale, the physical mechanism for the breakup of Shoemaker/Levy also caused the tidal disruption of the star in RX J1242-11.
(Illustration: JPL/D. Seal (edited by CXC/M. Weiss))

Illustration of Saturn's Rings
This illustration shows a close-up of Saturn's rings. These rings are thought to have formed from material that was unable to form into a Moon because of tidal forces from Saturn, or from a Moon that was broken up by Saturn's tidal forces.
(Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss)

Image of Pele erupting on Io
Jupiter's moon Io is the most geologically active body in the solar system today and provides the most extreme example of the effect of tidal forces. Io is being pulled by massive Jupiter on one side and by the outer moons (Europa, Callisto, Ganymede) on the other. The opposing tidal forces alternately squeeze and stretch its interior, causing the solid surface to rise and fall by about 100 meters. The enormous amount of heat and pressure generated by the resulting friction creates colossal volcanoes and fractures on the surface of this moon.
(Credit: NASA/USGS)

Chandra X-ray Image with Scale Bar
Scale bar = 8 arcsec
(Credit: NASA/CXC/MPE/S.Komossa et al.)

Return to RX J1242-11 (18 Feb 04)