December 16, 2011 by staff
Black Hole, A humongous black hole in the Milky Way galaxy is devouring a gas cloud, according to an article published online in Nature Wednesday. The mammoth black hole with a big appetite is called Sagittarius A*. Sagittarius A* is located at the center of the Milky Way galaxy and has a mass that is roughly four million times greater than that of the Sun. The mammoth black hole is approximately 27,000 light years away from Earth.
As for the gas cloud, researchers utilized the massive telescope at the European Southern Observatory to make an estimate of its size. Researchers believe that the gas cloud has a mass that is approximately three times that of Earth.
The telescope at the European South Observatory is the “world’s most advanced optical instrument,” according to the organization’s website. The telescope has four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2m diameter. The telescope also has four movable 1.8m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes. Astronomers can deploy the telescopes at the same time, creating a huge “interferometer” (the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer). Using the telescopes together allows astronomer to see details up to 25 times greater than with the individual telescopes.
According to a press release from the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), researchers expect to be able to monitor how the mammoth black hole eats the gas cloud. Over the next two years, astronomers believe that the gas cloud will be torn apart by the humongous black hole. Nothing, not even light, can escape a black hole.
“The idea of an astronaut close to a black hole being stretched out to resemble spaghetti is familiar from science fiction,” Stefan Gillessen, from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and the lead author of the paper describing the detection andanlysis of the gas cloud, said, according to BBC News.
“But we can now see this happening for real to the newly discovered cloud. It is not going to survive the experience,” Mr. Gillessen added.
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