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Waspie_Dwarf

Black hole-bound gas cloud

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Black hole-bound gas cloud 'stretched like spaghetti'

The giant gas cloud heading for the black hole at the centre of our galaxy has begun its death spiral.

The cloud, known as G2 is now being stretched out like a piece of spaghetti by the black hole's extreme gravity.

This gravitational field has caused the head of the cloud to accelerate around the black hole and to speed back towards us.

Astronomers have been closely observing G2, hoping to catch it being ripped apart and eaten by the black hole.

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I love this, it's pretty much the only way to observe black holes and give substantial evidence to their existence. Brilliant!

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More on this story; the ESO press release:


Ripped Apart by a Black Hole

VLT watches in real time as gas cloud makes closest approach to the monster at the centre of the Milky Way

New observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope show for the first time a gas cloud being ripped apart by the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy. The cloud is now so stretched that its front part has passed the closest point and is travelling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling towards it.

In 2011 ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) discovered a gas cloud with several times the mass of the Earth accelerating towards the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way (eso1151). This cloud is now making its closest approach and new VLT observations show that it is being grossly stretched by the black hole’s extreme gravitational field.

"The gas at the head of the cloud is now stretched over more than 160 billion kilometres around the closest point of the orbit to the black hole. And the closest approach is only a bit more than 25 billion kilometres from the black hole itself — barely escaping falling right in," explains Stefan Gillessen (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany) who led the observing team. "The cloud is so stretched that the close approach is not a single event but rather a process that extends over a period of at least one year."

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Simulation of gas cloud being ripped apart by the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

This simulation shows a gas cloud, discovered in 2011, as it passes close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy. Observations with ESO's Very Large Telescope in 2013 show that the cloud is so stretched that the front part of it has passed the closest point and is travelling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling towards it.

Credit: ESO/S. Gillessen/MPE/Marc Schartmann/L. Calçada

Source: ESO Observatory

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Gas cloud being ripped apart by the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

These observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope, using the SINFONI instrument, show the behaviour of a small gas cloud as it passes close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy. The horizontal axis shows the extent of the cloud along its orbit and the vertical axis shows the velocities of different parts of the cloud. As the cloud gets closer to the black hole it is dramatically stretched out and at the time when the cloud passes the closest point the velocity of the front is several million km/h different from that of the tail.

Credit: ESO/S. Gillessen

Source: ESO Observatory

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Gas cloud falling in towards the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

These observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope show a small gas cloud as it falls towards the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy. The cloud appears in red and many of the bright blue stars orbiting the central black hole are also shown. Measurements made with ESO's Very Large Telescope in 2013 show that the cloud is so stretched that the front part of it has passed the closest point and is travelling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling towards it.

Due to its distance, and the fact that we see the orbit at a steep angle as the cloud falls towards the black hole, only the position, not the shape, of the cloud can be discerned in this video. The stretching of the cloud is seen in observations of its velocity, which allow astronomers to work out where on its orbit the different parts of the cloud are now located.

Credit: ESO/S. Gillessen

Source: ESO Observatory

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