Part of the gas cloud being ripped apart by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way have already swung past the black hole.


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Part of a gas cloud, being ripped apart by the super massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, has already swung past the black hole.

“The ionised gas at the head of the cloud is now stretched over more than 150 light-hours (about 160 billion kilometres) at the pericentre of the orbit around the black hole, with the closest approach being about 25 light-hours (or a bit more than 25 billion kilometres)”, explains Stefan Gillessen from MPE, who led the observing team. “The pericentre approach however is not a singular event but rather a process that will be stretching over a period of at least one year.”

The black hole, dubbed Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star), is more than 4 billion times the mass of our Sun, but emits very little energy for its size. (Most super massive black holes emit energy as they swallow the mass around them.) Astronomers are hoping that they will see some action when it eats this cloud sometime next year.

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One comment

  • joe

    And things always look so tranquil when I look at the night time sky! I am having a hard time in my little mind with the distances and speeds covered by these gas clouds and this black hole, it would be wonderful to harness just a little bit of that energy for space missions and space travel in general!

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