Nasa may have discovered the youngest black hole in the Milky Way.
The agency's Chandra X-ray Observatory caught the remnant galaxy W49B with what appears to be a black hole at its centre.
The "highly distorted" cloud of gas and material pictured by the telescope is all that's left of a supernova which occurred about 1,000 years ago (as seen from Earth).
The remnant is located about 26,000 light years away. The black hole at its centre is thought to be the youngest ever found in our galaxy.
It's unusual because the supernova was not symmetrical. Instead material near the poles of the doomed rotating star was ejected faster than that at its equator.
"W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy," said Laura Lopez, who led the study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't."
If the black hole is there - and the researchers aren't totally sure it is - it could present a rare chance to study this strange feature of space at its birth.
"It's a bit circumstantial, but we have intriguing evidence the W49B supernova also created a black hole," said co-author Daniel Castro, also of MIT. "If that is the case, we have a rare opportunity to study a supernova responsible for creating a young black hole."
Suggested For You
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more