Countdown to a black hole show
2012 06 30

From: cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com



Researchers are watching the first scenes of a cosmic show that’s expected to heat up over the next year as a giant gas cloud approaches the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

The impending collision was the subject of a research paper published in Nature last December, and now Youris.com, the European Research Media Center, is providing an update: By mid-2013, the cloud is expected to pass in the vicinity of the black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, at a distance of 36 light-hours, or less than 25 billion miles (40 billion kilometers).

Black holes are gravitational singularities so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their grip. They can only be detected by their gravitational influence on their surroundings, or by the blazing swirl of material being sucked down into their maw.

Some black holes are thought to be created when massive stars collapse. Others, like Sagittarius A*, are thought to be crushed into existence as part of the galaxy formation process. Sagittarius A* is 4.3 million times as massive as our sun, and is located 27,000 light-years from our solar system. There’s no danger that this black hole will gobble up the galaxy — in fact, it’s unusually well-behaved, which is one reason why humanity has been able to hang around long enough to detect it.

Stefan Gillessen, an astrophysicist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, has been observing Sagittarius A* for the past 20 years. He says next year’s encounter could provide an unprecedented view of our supermassive black hole at its best ... or at its worst.

"So far, there were only two stars that came that close to Sagittarius A*," Youris.com quotes him as saying. "They passed unharmed, but this time will be different: The gas cloud will be completely ripped apart by the tidal forces of the black hole."

Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory say the speed of the cloud’s progress has nearly doubled over the past seven years, to more than 5 million mph (8 million kilometers per hour). They report that the cloud’s edges are already beginning to shred. During the months to come, it should break up into elongated filaments. "It will look like spaghetti," Gillessen said.

The cloud is also expected to get much hotter, and will probably start emitting X-rays.

Reinhard Genzel, who heads the ESO’s team of astronomers, said the show won’t end with next year’s expected encounter.

"The next few years will be really fantastic and exciting, because we’re probing the territory," he said in the Youris.com video report. "Here this cloud comes in, gets disrupted, but now it will begin to interact with the hot gas right around the black hole. We have never seen this before."

Source: cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com



Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Detekt: A New Malware Detection Tool That Can Expose Illegitimate State Surveillance
2014 11 21
Recent years have seen a boom in the adoption of surveillance technology by governments around the world, including spyware that provides its purchasers the unchecked ability to target remote Internet users’ computers, to read their personal emails, listen in on private audio calls, record keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate their computer’s camera or microphone. EFF, together with Amnesty International, ...
New UK spy chief says tech giants aid terrorism, privacy not ‘absolute right’
2014 11 21
Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ The new head of Britain’s GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA in the U.S., said he believes privacy is not an absolute right and that tech giants must open themselves up to intelligence agencies. “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age,” Hannigan said. “But privacy ...
LOL: Atheist Feminist Pornographer Used as Moral Authority in T-shirt Row
2014 11 21
Dr. Matt Taylor was thrust into the headlines this last week, largely for his lead role in successfully landing a spacecraft on a comet 300 million miles from earth that travels at a speed of 85,000 mph. In short, Taylor and his colleagues pulled off one of the most amazing achievements in contemporary science and space exploration, and in a ...
Forty Years that Unmade France
2014 11 21
Eric Zemmour is a well-known French author and television personality. Of Algerian-Jewish origin, he may seem an unlikely spokesman for French tradition, but he has emerged in recent years as a prominent scourge of ideological orthodoxy. He is unquestionably the most prominent mainstream French commentator who speaks candidly about race. Eric Zemmour This role comes with a price. In 2011 he was ...
Richard Spencer Under Fire
2014 11 21
The Flathead Beacon has a story on the mobbing of Richard Spencer consequent to the publicity over the Budapest conference. The city council is being asked to “an ordinance barring hate-group activities in the community.” As several of the comments note, the First Amendment seems to be of no concern to these activists. The article is interesting ...
More News »