Astronomers at Ohio State University witnessed a black hole tearing a star to shreds, thanks to a NASA satellite and a network of robotic telescopes, according to WOSU Public Media.
They were fortunate to experience the event, as conditions must be just right for the star-shredding to take place. If it’s too far away from the black hole, the star will simply ricochet and spin off into space. If it’s too close, the black hole will gobble it up with ease.
This particular black hole is about 6 million times the mass of the sun, the researchers said, positioned in the middle of a galaxy approximately 375 million light-years away in the Volans constellation.
"Part of it is, it’s just really cool," Patrick Vallely, a graduate research fellow at Ohio State, told the news outlet. "We say, 'Oh my gosh, we saw a star get torn apart by a black hole!' And at least in astronomy, cool factor is like half of what we do."
It was also amazing to “detect it early, train more telescopes on the black hole, and capture unprecedented data about the rare event,” he told WOSU.