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CosmosUp | December 4, 2021

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Doomed Gas Cloud G2 Approaches Milky Way’ Black Hole

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Doomed Gas Cloud G2 Approaches Milky Way’ Black Hole

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 black hole, named Sgr A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A star”), is roughly 4 million times as massive as the Sun. Its enormous gravitational strength will pull apart the mostly hydrogen and helium cloud as Sgr A* brings the gas ever closer.

“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.

Gas Cloud G2: Sagittarius A

Sagittarius A

Simulating the view in 2021, the image shows the cloud’s remains in red and yellow, its original orbit in red, and the orbits of nearby stars around the black hole in blue.


  1. Mark Faby

    How, exactly, can the astronomers say/see this is happening at the center of the Milky Way when there is no way to see the center due to all the inter-stellar dust?

    And while I’m here how do astronomers know that the Milky Way is disc shaped?


    • dennis walker

      Hey mark those are both good and legitimate questions. I will try to answer them for you but you will have to over look my grammar I am a science nut not a grammar nut. Light waves like sound waves or radio waves have variable ranges of frequency they travel in and many are not with our range of normal vision. So to over come the dust and cloud debris at the center of our galaxy astronomers have deployed ultra violet infrared and other telescopes that can see in different frequencies and because of the the frequency of the waves they can come through the dust and debris where other light waves can not and astronomers can see the center of the galaxy and its stars as if the dust was not even there. Your second question is a good one as well. We know we live in a disk shaped galaxy because of the way we see the center of our galaxy in the night sky when it is fully visible absent of artificial light. None of the pictures you see are actually our galaxy because we have not got the satellites or probes out far enough to see that yet, but most astronomers use our nearest galaxy Andromeda as an example of how our galaxy probably looks. They are both pretty close to being of equal size, weight, and structure. Andromeda is the only galaxy in the universe that is coming towards us at about 190 miles a second. One day in about 4 billion years our milky way galaxy and Andromeda will collide and perhaps become one new and bigger galaxy. I hope that helps mark and thanks for asking, questions and curiosity is how we learn.

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