The event occurred near a supermassive black hole estimated to weigh a few million times the mass of the sun. The black hole is located in the center of PGC 043234, a galaxy that lies about 290 million light years from Earth. This makes this event the closest tidal disruption discovered in a decade. If directed towards our solar system would have similar devastation as supernova.
When a star comes too close to a black hole, the intense gravity of the black hole results in tidal forces that can rip the star apart. In these events, called “tidal disruptions,” some of the stellar debris is flung outward at high speeds, while the rest falls toward the black hole. This causes a distinct X-ray flare that can last for a few years.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer, and ESA/NASA’s XMM-Newton collected different pieces of this astronomical puzzle in a tidal disruption event called ASASSN-14li, originally discovered in an optical search by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) in November 2014.