Scientists are about to observe a supermassive black hole‘s table manners. While studying the motions of stars near the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, astronomers discovered a huge gas cloud, called G2, heading directly toward it. The findings appeared in the January 5 issue of Nature.
“The idea of an astronaut close to a black hole being stretched out to resemble spaghetti is familiar from science fiction,”
says lead author Ste-fan Gillessen of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany.
“But we can now see this happening for real to the newly discovered cloud. It is not going to survive the experience”.
The cloud, some three times as massive as Earth, approaches Sgr A* at about 5 million mph (8 million km/h) and will reach its nearest point to the black hole in mid-2013. Because Sgr A* doesn’t have much material in its immediate vicinity, and thus currently seems quiet, the gas cloud will provide a new source of radiation as it nears and eventu-ally falls into the black hole.
The next two years will be very interesting and should provide us with extremely valuable information on the behavior of matter around such remarkable massive objects:’ says co-author Reinhard Genzel, also of the MPI. BILL ANDREWS.
You can see down a video-simulation. This computer model depicts the imminent breakup of a huge gas cloud on its way to the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.