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

Sweden Recognizes Palestinian State; Israel Upset
2014 10 31
Sweden on Thursday became the biggest Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm. The move by Sweden’s new left-leaning government reflects growing international impatience with Israel’s nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. It also comes during increased ...
Fed-Backed Study: How to Brainwash Public into Fearing “Climate Change” Like Ebola
2014 10 31
$84K study seeks ways to make public fear "climate change and overpopulation" The National Science Foundation is funding a study to determine how to brainwash the public into fearing “climate change and overpopulation” as if they were Ebola. The NSF awarded an $84,000 grant to researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo yesterday to figure out how to make ...
Brain decoder can eavesdrop on your inner voice
2014 10 31
As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head TALKING to yourself used to be a strictly private pastime. That’s no longer the case – researchers have eavesdropped on our internal monologue for the first time. The achievement is a step towards helping people who cannot ...
6 Million Lies
2014 10 30
“If you do not specify and confront real issues, what you say will surely obscure them. If you do not alarm anyone morally, you yourself remain morally asleep. If you do not embody controversy, what you say will be an acceptance of the drift of the coming hell.” C Wright Mills. I need to share information I have discovered ...
Google’s New Computer With Human-Like Learning Abilities Will Program Itself
2014 10 30
In college, it wasn’t rare to hear a verbal battle regarding artificial intelligence erupt between my friends studying neuroscience and my friends studying computer science. One rather outrageous fellow would mention the possibility of a computer takeover, and off they went. The neuroscience-savvy would awe at the potential of such hybrid technology as the CS majors argued we have nothing to ...
More News »