The first images of a gas cloud being ripped apart by Sagittarius A star, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, have been captured by the Very Large Telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory, or ESO.

"The cloud is now so stretched that its front part has passed the closest point and is traveling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling toward it," the ESO said in a statement.

This phenomenon at the center of the Milky Way was observed at the ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile.

"The most exciting thing we now see in the new observations is the head of the cloud coming back toward us at more than 10 million km/h along the orbit - about 1 percent of the speed of light," research group leader Reinhard Genzel said. "This means that the front end of the cloud has already made its closest approach to the black hole."

The research group has been studying this region of the Milky Way for nearly 20 years.

Teams of astronomers from around the world are closely monitoring the phenomena in the heart of the Milky Way, which is home to our solar system.

"This intense observing campaign will provide a wealth of data, not only revealing more about the gas cloud, but also probing the regions close to the black hole that have not been previously studied and the effects of super-strong gravity," the ESO said. EFE