03/04/2013 07:35 BST | Updated 03/06/2013 06:12 BST

Slumbering Black Hole Eats Planet 30 Times Mass Of Jupiter (VIDEO)


A black hole has 'woken up' from a deep sleep - and eaten a planet 30 times the mass of Jupiter.

The European Space Agency reports that the black hole in galaxy NGC 4845, which is 47 million light years from Earth, had been dormant for decades.

But a planet - or perhaps a brown dwarf star - which strayed too close was swallowed up by the intense gravitational pull of the black hole.

ESA said that the observations were made by its Integral space observatory, with follow-up observations from ESA's XMM-Newton, NASA's Swift and Japan's MAXI X-ray monitor on the International Space Station.

"The observation was completely unexpected, from a galaxy that has been quiet for at least 20-30 years," said Marek Nikolajuk of the University of Bialystok, Poland, lead author of the paper in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

It is thought the swallowed-up planet is between 14 and 30 times the mass of Jupiter - but it might be much lower.

In any case the black hole has a mass 300,000 times that of our Sun - meaning the poor planet never stood a chance.

Take a look at an artist's impression of the event, above.