Scientists To Watch Milky Way's Supermassive Black Hole Chow Down On Huge Gas Cloud
An artist's impression of a black hole
IMAGE BY NASA, ESA, Martin Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)
With black holes still being something of a mysterious entity in cosmos, scientists are looking forward to a rare event in astrophysical observation - the consumption of an entire dust cloud by the black hole at the heart of our galaxy.
The black hole, designated Sagittarius A*, is believed to hold the mass of about 4 million Suns, and sometime mid next year scientists will be able to watch it consume a gas cloud travelling towards doom at about 8 million km per hour.
Visuals of black holes themselves are still beyond our grasp, but researchers anticipate that the event will give off waves of measurable X-ray radiation, produced because of the heat the cloud will accumulate as it spirals towards total annihilation.
Stars and other stellar objects have come close to the giant black hole before, but none nearly as close as this cloud, which will move to within a relatively tiny 36 light hours of Sagittarius A*.