Supermassive Black Hole at Center of Milky Way Snacks on Hot Gas

Posted on May 7, 2013

Hot gas orbiting black hole at center of the Milky Way


The Herschel space observatory has recorded observations of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy snacking on hot gas. The Milky Way's black hole has a mass that is four million times that of our sun. It located in a region named Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, which is about 26,000 light-years from our solar system. You can find a larger version of the above image here.

Paul Goldsmith, the U.S. project scientist for Herschel at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement, "The black hole appears to be devouring the gas. This will teach us about how supermassive black holes grow."

Astronomers say some of the hot gas around the black hole is 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (around 1,000 degrees Celsius). Scientists theorize that emission from strong shocks in highly-magnetised gas in the region may be contributing to the high temperatures.

NASA says its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory are ready to spot any X-ray burps coming from the black hole.

Image: ESA-C. Carreau


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