June 27, 2012
Neighboring Black Hole Set To Collide With Gas Cloud In 2013
[ Watch the Video ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
According to a post by the European Research Media Center, the black hole in the center of our galaxy is about to meet up with a giant gas cloud in 2013.
The celestial spectacle will provide astronomers with a prime front-row seat of Sagittarius A passing by a gas cloud at only 36 light-hours, or about 24 million miles.
Although the distance between the two celestial objects seems far, it is extremely close in astronomical terms.
"So far there were only two stars that came that close to Sagittarius A”, Stefan Gillessen, astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich, Germany, told Youris.com. “They passed unharmed, but this time will be different: the gas cloud will be completely ripped apart by the tidal forces of the black hole."
Reinhard Genzel leads the team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory, which helped discover the gas cloud was heading close to Sagittarius A.
They found that the gas cloud's speed has nearly doubled in the last seven years, reaching more than 4.9 million mph.
The edges of the cloud have already started to shred, and it is expected to break up completely over the coming months.
The cloud is predicted to get even hotter as the collision between the two objects starts to get closer. It will also start to emit X-rays as a result of the interaction with the black hole.
Astronomers and astrophysicists will be taking advantage of the unique opportunity by observing just how the gas cloud behaves when getting so close to the black hole.
The cloud is estimated to be over three times the mass of Earth. Eventually, the black hole's gravitational force will pull the gas cloud towards itself, making the cloud stretch out and look like spaghetti, according to Gillessen.
No one is exactly sure how the collision will take place, or what to expect, but the cloud's edges have already started to shred.
Black holes are thought to be the center of all galaxies, but their origins are not exactly fully understood by the science community. This upcoming collision could help provide new insights on the behavior of space's most mysterious object.