A massive black hole devoured a large planet in galaxy NGC 4845. But don’t worry, the black hole is 47 million light years away from Earth.
The black hole was discovered in the galaxy, which scientists previously thought was quaint and rather quiet. But after checking in on the galaxy for the past two to three decades, scientists with the European Space Agency got a big surprise.
While the European Space Agency’s Integral space observatory initially discovered the black hole, follow-up observations were made by the ESA’s XMM-Newton, NASA’s Swift, and Japan’s MAXI X-ray monitor on the International Space Station.
Marek Nikolajuk of the University of Bialystok stated of the black hole, “The observation was completely unexpected, from a galaxy that has been quiet for at least 20–30 years.”
The black hole was spotted thanks to an ultra-bright X-ray flare coming from what scientists described as a “halo of material.” The follow-up observations uncovered a long-dormant supermassive black hole that is 300,000 times the size of our Sun. The black hole was slowly tearing apart a gas giant 14 to 30 times the size of Jupiter.
An ESA statement explained that the black hole was in no hurry to devour its claim. The statement added, “there was a delay of 2-3 months between the object being disrupted and the heating of the debris in the vicinity of the black hole.” Study co-author Roland Walter added that the black hole did not eat the entire planet.
Instead, it ate about 10 percent of the planet’s total mass. The remaining denser core is still orbiting around the black hole. Walter added, “This is the first time where we have seen the disruption of a substellar object by a black hole.”
While no other planets are in danger of being eaten by the black hole in NGC 4845, a compact cloud of gas is slowly working its way toward a supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way.