Simulation Shows G2 Gas Cloud Interacting With Milky Way Black Hole

Posted on January 8, 2014

The ESO simulation below shows the behavior of the G2 gas cloud as it approaches Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Astronomers have been monitoring the center of the Milky Way with NASA's Swift spacecraft since February 2006. Swift takes a 17-minute-long snapshot with its X-ray Telescope every few days. The simulation runs through 2043. Take a look:

G2 is a cold gas cloud with a mass about three times that of the Earth. It is already being affected by tides from the black hole. Astronomers expect G2 to get close enough to the black hole later this year that it will heat up and produce X-rays.

Jamie Kennea, a team member at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa, said in a statement, "Astronomers around the world are eagerly awaiting the first sign that this interaction has begun. With the invaluable help of Swift, our monitoring program may well provide that indicator."