NASA has captured an enormous black hole tearing apart a star 375 million light years from Earth.
The extremely rare phenomenon, known as a tidal disruption, was captured by the space agency’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
It showed a star similar to our Sun being sucked into the gravitational pull of the black hole, which was around six million times its size.
The blast, which astronomers were able to observe from beginning to end, only happens between 10,000 and 100,000 years in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way.
"This was really a combination of both being good and being lucky, and sometimes that's what you need to push the science forward," said astronomer Thomas Holoien of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who led the research published in the Astrophysical Journal.
“Because we identified the tidal disruption quickly [...] we were able to trigger multiwavelength follow-up observations in the first few days. The early data will be incredibly helpful for modeling the physics of these outbursts,” he added.
The team used UV data from Swift to determine that the temperature dropped by about 50%, from around 71,500 to 35,500 degrees Fahrenheit (40,000 to 20,000 degrees Celsius during the event.
Black holes usually reside at the center of most large galaxies, including our Milky Way.
Observing the oscillation of light as the black hole gobbles the star and spews stellar material in an outward spiral could help astronomers understand the black hole's behavior, a scientific mystery since physicist Albert Einstein examined gravity's influence on light in motion.