For the first time, scientists have detected a black hole devouring a neutron star, according to a report released Monday.
“About 900 million years ago, this black hole ate a very dense star, known as a neutron star, like Pac-man – possibly snuffing out the star instantly,” said Susan Scott, a scientist with the Australian National University, in a statement.
Neutron stars are small yet incredibly dense stellar objects and are the collapsed remains of imploded stars. Black holes are also collapsed stars with gravity so strong that even light cannot escape their grasp. Scientists earlier this year captured the first-ever photo of a black hole.
The current discovery was made using gravitational-wave discovery machines in the United States and Italy, which detected ripples in space and time from the "cataclysmic event" that happened about 8,550 million trillion kilometers away from the Earth.
Gravitational waves occur when neutron stars collide and are detected using both the USA's mammoth Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Italy's Virgo observatory.
“We’ve never detected a neutron star and a black hole together,” Ryan Foley, an astronomer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Vice. “If it turns out to be right, then we’ve confirmed a new type of star system. It’s that fundamental.”
Scott said that while "we're very confident that we've just detected a black hole gobbling up a neutron star," she also acknowledged the small chance that the devoured object was “a very light black hole."
In any event, the final results are expected to be published in coming scientific journals./US TODAY