Scientists have spotted a bright flash of light emitted by a star as it was destroyed by a black hole 215 million light-years away.

Why it matters: Black holes are some of the most extreme and difficult to study objects in the universe, and these types of rare events could help researchers piece together more about their nature.

What they found: A new study detailing the death of the star in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society explains that the star went through an event called "spaghettification" where it was ripped apart when it came too close to a supermassive black hole.

  • "In this case the star was torn apart with about half of its mass feeding — or accreting — into a black hole of one million times the mass of the Sun, and the other half was ejected outward," astronomer Edo Berger, an author of the study, said in a statement.
  • This event — named AT2019qiz — is the closest of its kind ever found to Earth, giving scientists a wealth of data on it.
  • While astronomers have seen these types of events in the past, this is the first time they saw mass ejected outward, away from the black hole, giving them more insight into how black holes grow.

The big picture: Usually astronomers have trouble seeing these events because they are typically clouded by gas and dust, but AT2019qiz was seen quickly after the star was gobbled up, before the material shot away from the black hole could obscure their view.

  • "This is a unique 'peek behind the curtain' that provided the first opportunity to pinpoint the origin of the obscuring material and follow in real time how it engulfs the black hole," Kate Alexander, another author of the study, said in the statement.

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Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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Leon Black still won't answer questions about Epstein payments

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Rick Friedman/Corbis/Getty Images

458 days. That's how long it's been since Axios first asked Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black to explain why he donated $10 million to Jeffrey Epstein's charity after he pleaded guilty to felony prostitution with an underage girl. Still no reply.

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Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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The coronavirus has complicated the get-out-the-vote effort for Black churches in 2020.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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