Gas cloud will collide with our galaxy's black hole in 2013

Jun 27, 2012 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
Images taken over the last decade using the NACO instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope show the motion of a cloud of gas that is falling towards the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. This is the first time ever that the approach of such a doomed cloud to a supermassive black hole has been observed and it is expected to break up completely during 2013. Credit: ESO/MPE

Scientists have determined a giant gas cloud is on a collision course with the black hole in the center of our galaxy, and the two will be close enough by mid-2013 to provide a unique opportunity to observe how a super massive black hole sucks in material, in real time. This will give astronomers more information on how matter behaves near a black hole.

“The next few years will be really fantastic and exciting because we are probing new territory,” said Reinhard Genzel, leading a team from the ESO in observations with the Very Large Telescope. “Here this cloud comes in gets disrupted and now it will begin to interact with the hot gas right around the black hole. We have never seen this before.”

By June of 2012, the gas cloud is expected to be just 36 light-hours (equivalent to 40,000,000,000 km) away from our galaxy’s black hole, which is extremely close in astronomical terms.

Astronomers have determined the speed of the gas cloud has increased, doubling over the past seven years, and is now reaching more than 8 million km per hour. The cloud is estimated to be three times the mass of Earth and the density of the cloud is much higher than that of the hot gas surrounding black hole. But the black hole has a tremendous gravitational force, and so the gas cloud will fall into the direction of the black hole, be elongated and stretched and look like spaghetti, said Stefan Gillessen, astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich, Germany, who has been observing our galaxy’s black hole, known as Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A*), for 20 years.

“So far there were only two stars that came that close to Sagittarius A*,” Gillessen said. “They passed unharmed, but this time will be different: the will be completely ripped apart by the tidal forces of the black hole.”

Watch a video of observations of the cloud for the past 10 years:

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

No one really knows how the collision will unfold, but the cloud’s edges have already started to shred and it is expected to break up completely over the coming months. As the time of actual collision approaches, the cloud is expected to get much hotter and will probably start to emit X-rays as a result of the interaction with the black hole.

Although direct observations of are impossible, as they do not emit light or matter, astronomers can identify a black hole indirectly due to the gravitational forces observed in their vicinity.

A black hole is what remains after a super massive star dies. When the “fuel” of a star runs low, it will first swell and then collapse to a dense core. If this remnant core has more than three times the mass of our Sun, it will transform to a black hole. So-called super massive black holes are the largest type of black holes, as their mass equals hundreds of thousands to a billion times the mass of our Sun.

Black holes are thought to be at the center of all , but their origin is not fully understood and astrophysicists can only speculate as to what happens inside them. And so this upcoming collision just 27,000 light years away will likely provide new insights on the behavior of black holes.

Explore further: Smallest known galaxy with a supermassive black hole found

More information: www.youris.com/Environment/Spa… lack_HoleS_Dinner.kl

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User comments : 25

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omatwankr
1.4 / 5 (9) Jun 27, 2012
"astronomers can identify a black hole indirectly due to the gravitational forces observed in their vicinity."

In less Dogmatic English
Astronomers Infer the presence of a Black Hole by its gravitation

But "infer" implies doubt "can identify" minimises doubt, dogma wins

jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (5) Jun 27, 2012
Very interesting. it seems to me that observing the material being sucked in will have large reprucussions for theories based on black holes actually creating new matter and that being what is ejected. sorry tuxford, time for you to re-join reality now. laviolette is a crank and the sooner you admit that the sooner you can see the world with your eyes open instead of the fantasy laviolette has spun for you.
ryggesogn2
3.2 / 5 (13) Jun 27, 2012
It DID collide 27000 years ago.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.9 / 5 (13) Jun 27, 2012
Only for your reference frame.

"It DID collide 27000 years ago." - RyggTard

Yours has no significance relative to others.
rah
1 / 5 (12) Jun 27, 2012
The black hole in the Milky Way's center will then be brought back into active mode and begin growing exponentially. It's gravity will be strong enough to start pulling the outer layers of our Sun's atmosphere within 28 months according to my calculations. As the Earth rotates to that side of the Sun, we will be pulled out of our orbit with the sun and toward the black hole, picking up speed at the rate of 36km/min. Of course it won't matter after a few days as only microbial life will still be alive on Earth. I have a solution but it will take a lot of money and the help of the Russians.
PussyCat_Eyes
2.4 / 5 (14) Jun 28, 2012
Only for your reference frame.

"It DID collide 27000 years ago." - RyggTard

Yours has no significance relative to others.
- VD

No...Rygg is correct. These are pictures of the past, not the present. The cloud is gone. Quite certain of that. It should've been mentioned in the article..but maybe they don't want to scare us or Vendicar might soon be calling out for his flying spaghetti monster to come and save him if rah is also correct. LOL
bob456789
3 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2012
One question that has always bothered me about black holes, i hope someone can answer.
Black holes crunch down to a singularity. How can one black hole be more massive than another if they all end in a singularity. I can understand how they would expand with consumption, but no matter how much water i put in my bath tub, the whirlpool may get bigger but the drain is always the same.
To get bigger implies they have mass, not a singularity.
CardacianNeverid
2.2 / 5 (10) Jun 28, 2012
Only for your reference frame.

"It DID collide 27000 years ago." - RyggTard

Yours has no significance relative to others.
- VD

No...Rygg is correct. These are pictures of the past, not the present. The cloud is gone -PussyTard

Poor pussy doesn't understand what a reference frame is.
CardacianNeverid
4 / 5 (8) Jun 28, 2012
Black holes crunch down to a singularity. How can one black hole be more massive than another if they all end in a singularity. I can understand how they would expand with consumption, but no matter how much water i put in my bath tub, the whirlpool may get bigger but the drain is always the same.
To get bigger implies they have mass, not a singularity -bob

Don't get too hung up on singularities. Almost any massive object can become a black hole if sufficiently compressed.

Imagine a 100kg mass compressed to a BH and 500kg mass also squeezed into a BH. The mass doesn't disappear, so you're left with 2 BHs, one 5 times more massive than the other.

BH masses can be measured quite precisely from their gravitational influence on stars and other matter.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.3 / 5 (7) Jun 28, 2012
All pictures are of the past.

"No...Rygg is correct. These are pictures of the past, not the present." - PussyCatEyes

Not quite.

The issue is how far back. And that is dependent upon your relative position and speed from what was photographed.

If you were just a short distance from the event and traveling at the speed of light, in your reference frame the event could have occurred just a nano-second in your past.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.8 / 5 (6) Jun 28, 2012
You are confusing size with mass.

"Black holes crunch down to a singularity. How can one black hole be more massive than another if they all end in a singularity." - Bob

First we don't know if black holes exist. Second we don't know if they compress to a singularity. But presuming they do, then as more matter enters a black hole it simply vanishes in terms of volume but adds to the gravitational field of the BH itself.

There are no physical dimensions to a BH, but there are physical sizes to manifestations which are defined by the BH's mass. There are various "event horizons" for infalling matter for example, and these have set radii for non-rotating BH's and take other forms for rotating ones.

BH's can also have charge, and angular momentum, at least theoretically. So secondary field effects can manifest at much larger radii.

It is interesting to note that from the perspective of an outside observer an object falling into a BH never reaches the event horizon.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (6) Jun 28, 2012
The infalling object will slow, have it's light redshifted, and be torn apart by both stretching, rotational sheer, and the intense radiation, but the stuff that comprises it will never be seen to enter. It will simply get ever closer to the event horizon, and become ever more black.

From the standpoint of an infalling object however, it crosses the event horizon without seeing any change in the space above or below.

Consider that particles like electrons are considered point like objects - without dimension. If that is the case, then to them there is no sheer, or tidal forces, so they should survive any force of any magnitude.

In any case, once inside the event horizon there is no path that anything can take to escape. All paths curve back toward the singularity.
Jitterbewegung
1 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2012
Has anyone written any good papers on how the Higgs field interacts with the mass of a black hole?
frajo
5 / 5 (4) Jun 28, 2012
Don't get too hung up on singularities.


Let's get hung up on singularities: Singularities are mathematical items and mathematics is perfectly suited to handle them.
We use mathematical models to describe physical phenomena. That's why many people use mathematical terms (like "singularity") when talking about physics.
They should not. Because physics doesn't know singularities, only mathematics does.
To tell the truth, we don't even know what physics is like on the Planck scale and the Planck scale is a lot larger than zero extent.

Not everything that is possible in mathematics (i.e. in a mathematical model) is paralleled in nature (i.e. in physics).
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) Jun 28, 2012
"Higgs field" - Jitter

A very, very interesting question. What is left for Higgs particles (should they exist) to interact with?

CardacianNeverid
3 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2012
Let's get hung up on singularities -frajo

I think you just torpedoed your own point, if you had one, by concluding:

To tell the truth, we don't even know what physics is like on the Planck scale and the Planck scale is a lot larger than zero extent. Not everything that is possible in mathematics is paralleled in nature -frajo

So why do you insist on getting hung up on singularities, when you then proceed to dismiss them? I'd say NOT getting hung up on singularities is precisely what you're advocating!
frajo
not rated yet Jun 29, 2012
So why do you insist on getting hung up on singularities, when you then proceed to dismiss them? I'd say NOT getting hung up on singularities is precisely what you're advocating!

I beg your pardon. Obviously I'm not able to convey what I mean.
Jitterbewegung
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 29, 2012
BHs have a mass, a charge and a spin if I remember rightly. I guess they would swollow Higgs particles if they got close enough. Maybe BHs have a their own Higgs field. Otherwise FTL bosons;-)
Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 29, 2012
One question that has always bothered me about black holes, i hope someone can answer.
Black holes crunch down to a singularity. How can one black hole be more massive than another if they all end in a singularity. I can understand how they would expand with consumption, but no matter how much water i put in my bath tub, the whirlpool may get bigger but the drain is always the same.
To get bigger implies they have mass, not a singularity.


What are you talking about? They do have mass, and they do have volume... they are extremely dense (perhaps the highest density possible), but they do not disappear into a single 1 dimensional point of zero volume, that is science fiction.
Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 29, 2012
Also, Cardacian is correct when s/he states that any mass can be a black hole... you can compress a 1kg chunk of iron into such a small volume that it becomes a black hole (I mean, you or I can't do this, but conceivably it could be done).

A black hole is only matter with a density above a certain threshold and where the volume of the object is smaller than it's Schwarzschild radius. But it still has volume, it still has mass (of course it has mass, how else would it gravitationally attract anything?).

A common source of error when talking about black holes is thinking that every black hole is an extremely massive stellar black hole... this is not true, black holes can exist that are light as a feather... again, a black hole is defined by it density, which is MASS per unit VOLUME... so mass and volume are equally important in determining if something is a black hole or not. The smaller the volume the smaller the necessary mass.
casualjoe
not rated yet Jun 30, 2012
I wouldn't be so sure of that until they actually find a QM black hole.
Jitterbewegung
1 / 5 (3) Jul 01, 2012
They seem to have linear momentum as well as angular momentum, charge and mass in GR.

http://en.wikiped..._objects
Jitterbewegung
1 / 5 (3) Jul 01, 2012
Of cource assuming E = mc squared at rest;-)
Vendicar_Decarian
2 / 5 (4) Jul 02, 2012
Mass, yes.
Volume, no.

"They do have mass, and they do have volume.." - DeathClock

That is why they are so interesting.
Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 02, 2012
You're invoking magic, everything has volume. It's possible that the density is such that adding an entire stars worth of mass only increases volume measurable on the Planck scales, but that's still volume.