What is Spaghettification?

As funny as it sounds, spaghettification is a real word that describes a horrifying effect. Have I made you curious yet? Then, let’s find out more.

What is Spaghettification?

Spaghettification is a term used in the field of astrophysics and is also known as the “noodle effect”. The name spaghettification represents the description of the effect itself, which consists of vertical stretching and horizontal compression of an object as spaghetti in direct contact with an extremely strong gravitational field. This effect usually occurs near a black hole and is caused by extreme tidal forces.

The tidal force is a gravitational effect that occurs when the gravitational field exerted on an object is not the same all around it. Thus, the object will be attracted more strongly from one side and less from another, and this inequality leads to the stretching of the object. According to scientists, black holes have some super-strong tidal forces, maybe even some of the strongest in the known universe.

The spaghettification effect only happens near black holes. Depending on the size of the black hole, the spaghettification can take place near the black hole or when the object passed the event horizon of a black hole, which is also the point of no return.

Stephen Hawking’s Example: The Spaghettification of the Astronaut

In his book, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking described the effect of spaghettification through a fictional story of an astronaut.

The story begins with an astronaut near the event horizon of a black hole. If the astronaut falls into the black hole with his feet first, then gravity will be stronger at the feet’s level than at the head’s level. Also, if the lying body were vertically, then the right side of his body would be pulled towards the opposite direction, and vice versa, the left side would be pulled towards the right. Finally, his body would be torn into strips like spaghetti due to differences in gravitational attraction.

The Star Spaghettified by Black Hole in 2018

Spaghettification could be observed for the first time in 2018 when several researchers watched for six months how a star was spaghettified and swallowed by a black hole. The spaghettification effect was observed from the observatory of the Atacama desert in Chile.

The star was the size of the sun and was 200 million light years away. It was torn apart by a supermassive black hole 20 million times larger than the sun.

The phenomenon of spaghettification is officially called in the world of astronomy the Tidal Disruption Event. This rare and special event helped researchers find out more about the effect and understand how matter is absorbed by a black hole. They saw for the first time how the matter of the star’s matter was thrown into the opposite direction of the black hole.

Can you survive spaghettification?

A human that falls into a black hole or is in the vicinity of the black hole’s event horizon will experience the spaghettification effect of being stretched by gravitational forces from all angles. More than likely, no one would survive the spaghettification. Moreover, some say that a human undergoing spaghettification would die in less than a second.

Would spaghettification hurt?

Death by being spaghettified by a black hole will be extremely painful. The super-powerful tidal forces will act over the human body, which will stretch as much as possible before beginning to destroy or even break into pieces.

That being said, you do not have to worry over spaghettification because the closest known black hole to Earth is 1500 light years away. It is called Gaia BH1 and has 10 times the mass of the sun.

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