Tag Archives: black hole

It turns out that the object dubbed G2 that is zipping past the Milky Way’s central black hole is behaving not like a cloud but more like a star.

The uncertainty of science: It turns out that the object dubbed G2 that is zipping past the Milky Way’s central black hole is behaving not like a cloud but more like a star.

The latest observations by the Keck Observatory in Hawaii show that the gas cloud called “G2” was surprisingly still intact, even during its closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers from the UCLA Galactic Center Group reported today that observations obtained on March 19 and 20, 2014 show the object’s density was still “robust” enough to be detected. This means G2 is not just a gas cloud, but likely has a star inside.

When I wrote a piece about this object for Sky & Telescope I found that among astronomers there was great skepticism about it being just a gas cloud that would be ripped apart when it flew past the black hole. The early data was not conclusive, but enough of it suggested G2 was a star, not a cloud. It turns out here that the skeptics were right.

The biggest black hole yet found, 17 billion times the mass of our sun.

The biggest black hole yet found, 17 billion times the mass of our sun.

The unusual black hole makes up 14 percent of its galaxy’s mass, rather than the usual 0.1 percent. … NGC 1277 [the galaxy] lies 220 million light-years away in the constellation Perseus. The galaxy is only ten percent the size and mass of our own Milky Way. Despite NGC 1277’s diminutive size, the black hole at its heart is more than 11 times as wide as Neptune’s orbit around the Sun.

Based on these measurements, it appears that this black hole is literally eating this galaxy whole.

The supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way is about to get a snack.

The supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way is about to get a snack.

Update: The recently launched NuStar telescope in July detected its first flare from the central black hole (which by the way is called Sagittarius A* and is pronounced Sagittarius A-star). If the gas cloud produces any fireworks as it whips past the black hole in the coming year then NuStar should see it.

Astronomers have discovered a star that circles the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way in only 11.5 years.

Dizzy: Astronomers have discovered a star that circles the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way in only 11.5 years.

This newly discovered star joins another that is 15 times brighter and has a 16 year orbit. The combined orbital data from both will allow astronomers to measure precisely the size of the black hole while also measuring the distortion of space caused by its intense gravitational field.

Astronomers watch as the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way begins to eat a giant gas cloud.

Astronomers watch as the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way begins to eat a giant gas cloud.

The real fireworks will occur next year, when the cloud passes only 25 billion miles from the black hole.