Proving exactly why they matter, NASA released a new video, showing exactly what happens when a black hole eats a star. Wait, what? Forget Unicron and Galactus, this is on a whole other level!
As a star falls toward a black hole, it is ripped apart by intense tides. The gas is corralled into a disk that swirls around the black hole and becomes rapidly heated to temperatures of millions of degrees.
The innermost gas in the disk spirals toward the black hole, where rapid motion and magnetism creates dual, oppositely directed "funnels" through which some particles may escape. Particle jets driving matter at velocities greater than 80-90 percent the speed of light form along the black hole's spin axis. In the case of Swift J1644+57, one of these jets happened to point straight at Earth.
"I'll take 'holy crap' for five hundred, Alex!"