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posted by Dopefish on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the reconnoiter-the-dark-matter dept.

weeds writes:

"This has been going on for some time and the date of closest approach keeps getting pushed back. Here is the latest report from the New York Times on the approach of a gas cloud called G2 towards the Galactic Center.

Black holes, which are the ultra-dense, collapsed objects predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, are often depicted as voracious feeders whose extraordinary gravity acts like a one-way membrane: Everything is sucked in, even light, and virtually nothing leaks out.

Now, for the first time, astronomers may have a chance to watch as a giant black hole consumes a cosmic snack.

In March or April, the gas cloud G2, which has been hurtling toward the center of the Milky Way, is expected to collide with Sagittarius A*, a black hole that lies just 26,000 light-years away from Earth."

 
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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by TrumpetPower! on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:34PM

    by TrumpetPower! (590) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:34PM (#2577) Homepage

    Voracious feeder...cosmic snack...center of the Milky Way?

    I was almost expecting the next line to say something about caramel and chocolate....

    b&

    --
    All but God can prove this sentence true.
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Statecraftsman on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:03PM

      by Statecraftsman (1149) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:03PM (#2609)

      And they talk about viscosity. If this gas cloud behaves like caramel, the material will fall in quickly. If it's more like melted chocolate, it could take years. I'm hoping for a third option... A liquor because I like my action fast and imbalanced.

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by JeanCroix on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:23PM

      by JeanCroix (573) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:23PM (#2628)
      The Galactic Center was reportedly quoted as commenting, "Om nom nom nom..."
      • (Score: 1) by carguy on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:43PM

        by carguy (568) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:43PM (#2655)

        [oblig] ...and the sharks are circling the Center...lasers will be turned on soon.

    • (Score: 1) by isostatic on Wednesday February 19 2014, @10:35PM

      by isostatic (365) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @10:35PM (#2928) Journal

      The red car and the blue cloud had a race
      All red wants to do is stuff his face
      He eats everything he sees, from stars to prickly bees [wikia.com]
      But smart old blue he took the milky way

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Zinho on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:38PM

    by Zinho (759) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:38PM (#2579)

    Can anyone comment on the light show we're expecting from this event? I've heard that dropping a bunch of mass into a black hole is a good way to get a bunch of EM emissions. I'm hping for some pretty pictures, and that any gamma radiation is pointed somewhere else :P

    --
    "Space Exploration is not endless circles in low earth orbit." -Buzz Aldrin
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by weeds on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:53PM

      by weeds (611) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:53PM (#2600) Journal
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by martyb on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:37PM

        by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:37PM (#2645) Journal

        Weeds(611) [soylentnews.org] wrote:

        Wikipedia has a pretty decent explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagittarius_A*#Discov ery_of_G2_gas_cloud_on_an_accretion_course/

        Thanks for the Wikipedia link! Among the links I found there, I found this one especially interesting: "Sgr A* -- Swift Monitoring Program 2013/2014 [swift-sgra.com] which states, in part:

        This is the home page for the Swift monitoring campaign of the Galactic center. Using almost daily observations since 2006, this program has provided a unique baseline to study the long-term X-ray behavior of the central super-massive black hole Sgr A*. We post daily updates of the Swift data to allow for a quick response if the activity of Sgr A* changes due to its interaction with the approaching gas cloud "G2".

        Lots of historical data, pretty pictures(!), and even *more* links to sources and write-ups.

        For those who want to keep up with the happenings there, it also mentions:

        If you would like to receive an automatic update via email when flaring behavior is detected, please email: swift.sgra 'at' gmail.com.

        I, for one, am anxiously awaiting what may happen, and what we'll learn!

        --
        Wit is intellect, dancing.
        • (Score: 1) by tftp on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:24AM

          by tftp (806) on Thursday February 20 2014, @12:24AM (#3002) Homepage

          I, for one, am anxiously awaiting what may happen, and what we'll learn!

          Why am I reminded of that scene in the movie Independence Day when a bunch of UFO crazies gather on some roof and cheerfully look into the barrel of a Zettawatt gamma laser? :-)

      • (Score: 1) by isaac on Wednesday February 19 2014, @07:16PM

        by isaac (500) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @07:16PM (#2745)

        Perinigricon is definitely my word of the day.

        -Isaac

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by xiox on Wednesday February 19 2014, @06:22PM

      by xiox (692) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @06:22PM (#2692)

      There will be flares up in brightness in various wavebands. The variation in brightness and spectrum with time will tell us about the accretion processes taking place. In other black holes, the material appears to form a disc of accreting material. It has to lose angular momentum before it gets swallowed by the black hole. The innermost part of the accretion disc is seen by X-ray emission (reflection) and can be very variable.

      The cloud is also pretty small (a few solar masses), so you're not going to get a dangerous outburst!

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by gilgalad55 on Wednesday February 19 2014, @08:54PM

      by gilgalad55 (314) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @08:54PM (#2843)

      Almost certainly no gamma rays, although NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is now operating in an observing profile that will give it good exposure to Sgr A* in case something does.

      To get gamma rays, you usually need some highly relativistic particles, thus something to accelerate them. When objects fall into black holes, they can (though they don't always) convert a significant fraction of their rest mass energy into heat and light. However, that still falls far short of the particle energies you need to generate gamma rays. Instead, the hot matter glows brightly in optical and X-ray. The plasma movement through the strong magnetic fields of the disc can also generate synchrotron radiation, which peaks in the cm-mm radio band.

      Some accreting black holes in other galaxies do emit powerful jets, which in turn emit gamma rays. When we see the gamma rays, the jets are pointed nearly directly at the earth, giving a strong relativistic boost to the signal.

      reddit-style source: I am an astrophysicist working with Fermi and radio telescopes.

    • (Score: 1) by mcgrew on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:34PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:34PM (#2883) Homepage Journal

      You might try actually (gasp) READING THE ARTICLE. They really don't know, but it's pretty certain you won't see it without a really big telescope.

      But there should be a few pretty pictures. But whatever happens, we will certainly learn something.

      What interested me is... this cloud is my birthday cake! It's supposed to happen in a time frame from three weeks before to three weeks after my birthday. I get a cosmic light show on my birthday!

      Hey, you, get offa my cloud...

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
      • (Score: 1) by Zinho on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:39PM

        by Zinho (759) on Thursday February 20 2014, @02:39PM (#3459)

        You might try actually (gasp) READING THE ARTICLE. They really don't know, but it's pretty certain you won't see it without a really big telescope.

        Wait, this "article" you speak of, what is it?

        Oh, do you mean the FA in RTFA; are we doing that here? I'm confused...

        Of course, your response lets me know that TFA wouldn't have answered my question anyhow ;^)

        --
        "Space Exploration is not endless circles in low earth orbit." -Buzz Aldrin
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by ragequit on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:42PM

    by ragequit (44) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:42PM (#2582) Journal

    I was rather under the impression that relativistic effects would prevent us from ever seeing anything.... Or am I just stoopid?

    --
    The above views are fabricated for your reading pleasure.
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by acid andy on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:49PM

      by acid andy (1683) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:49PM (#2593) Homepage Journal

      I was rather under the impression that relativistic effects would prevent us from ever seeing anything.... Or am I just stoopid?

      Those two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, you know!

      Ah! If they were, you'd have said "Xor am I just stoopid?", I see.

      --
      Master of the science of the art of the science of art.
    • (Score: 1) by pe1rxq on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:50PM

      by pe1rxq (844) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:50PM (#2595) Homepage

      You can't look inside the event horizon, but this will give some nice special effects just outside of it.
      As for your second question: I don't know, maybe ;)

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by stormwyrm on Thursday February 20 2014, @03:48AM

      by stormwyrm (717) on Thursday February 20 2014, @03:48AM (#3139) Journal

      Well, matter falling into the black hole gets compressed and heated by its gravity as it falls toward the event horizon. The radiation thus produced goes in all directions, some toward the event horizon, never to be seen again, some away from it, and we get to see some of that.

      --
      Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate.
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by furiousoyster on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:44PM

    by furiousoyster (594) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:44PM (#2583)

    The author must have been hungry when he wrote that article. Even the sensitivity of Event Horizon Telescope was described in terms of food. "[It] is so acute that the array could make out an orange on the surface of the moon, said the project's leader..."

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by dotdotdot on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:58PM

    by dotdotdot (858) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:58PM (#2604)

    This happened 26,000 years ago.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by snick on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:24PM

      by snick (1408) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:24PM (#2630)

      This happened 26,000 years ago.

      In that case I'll bet that that green site covered the story at least a week ago.

  • (Score: -1, Redundant) by r00t on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:59PM

    by r00t (1349) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @04:59PM (#2605)

    This happened 26,000 light years ago.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by romanr on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:04PM

      by romanr (102) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:04PM (#2610)

      s/light years/years/

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by iWantToKeepAnon on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:48PM

        by iWantToKeepAnon (686) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:48PM (#2660) Homepage Journal

        or ...

        s/ago/away/

        --
        "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." -- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Sir Garlon on Wednesday February 19 2014, @08:36PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @08:36PM (#2827)

      I believe parent is referring to spacetime [wikipedia.org], which is an appropriate coordinate system for measuring time/distance on a galactic scale. Seriously.

      --
      [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by randmcnatt on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:05PM

    by randmcnatt (671) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:05PM (#2612)
    There's a short simulation of the event [youtube.com] prepared by the European Southern Observatory [eso.org].
    --
    The Wright brothers were not the first to fly: they were the first to land.
  • (Score: 2, Funny) by AlbertMaurice on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:54PM

    by AlbertMaurice (446) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @05:54PM (#2670)

    It says that the Black Hole is "just 26,000 light-years away from Earth." I am scared. I will hide under the bed until the whole thing evaporates....

  • (Score: 0) by crutchy on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:00PM

    by crutchy (179) on Wednesday February 19 2014, @09:00PM (#2851) Homepage Journal

    In March or April, the gas cloud G2, which has been hurtling toward the center of the Milky Way, is expected to collide with Sagittarius A*

    Dijkstra would be turning in his grave

  • (Score: 1) by saramakos on Thursday February 20 2014, @01:22AM

    by saramakos (1151) on Thursday February 20 2014, @01:22AM (#3037)

    What does the A* represent? Is it cosmologist shorthand for A-Hole?