Scientists have watched for the first time as a star was ripped to shreds by a black hole. They caught the distant sun’s cosmic scream as the galactic cannibal destroyed it and swallowed it up.
The cosmic feast – shown in the Nasa artist’s impression – was witnessed in a galaxy four billion light-years away from the Earth in the constellation of Boötes.
The satellite recorded a huge ultraviolet flare as the lurking black hole, believed to be tens of millions of times more massive than our sun, seized the passing star.
It was torn to pieces by the incredible gravitational forces. Material then swirled around like water in a plughole before plunging into the black hole, never to be seen again.
Dr Suvi Gezari, of the California Institute of Technology, will report on the incredible event in next week’s issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. He said: “This type of event is very rare, so we are lucky to study the entire process from beginning to end.”
Co-author Dr Christopher Martin said: “This will help us greatly in weighing black holes in the universe, and in understanding how they feed and grow in their host galaxies as the universe evolves.”
• For more space reading, plus other bargains, check out the Skymania store!