The X-ray source 3XMM J215022.4−055108, viewed with ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory in 2006 (left) and 2009 (right).
This is the best-ever candidate for a very rare and elusive type of cosmic phenomenon: a so-called intermediate-mass black hole in the process of tearing apart and feasting on a nearby star.
This rare breed of black hole was spotted as it disrupted and tore apart a nearby star, gorging on the resulting debris and throwing off an enormous amount of light in the process. It has a mass of around fifty thousand times that of the Sun, and is located within a massive cluster of stars on the outskirts of a galaxy some 740 million light-years away.
A comparison between these two images shows how the burst of energy released by this powerful event gradually decreased over the years.
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