The vast cosmic events that go on in space can sometimes be hard to picture in your mind, even with the most vivid imagination and understanding. Thankfully, NASA has released a video demonstrating just one of those colossal clashes of the universe.
The video is an artist's rendition of a "tidal disruption." This is when a star strays into the path of a black hole and is ripped apart, causing stellar debris to fling out. The event also creates a flare of X-ray radiation which, if we're lucky, we can register. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer and ESA/NASA’s XMM-Newton even collected information on a tidal disruption caused by a supermassive black hole late last year, in an event named ASASSN-14li.
NASA used this event to test theoretical models about how black holes affect their environments, as well as create illustrations of what events such as tidal disruptions might look like.