Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Milky way’s Black Hole Snacks on Hot Gas


The Herschel space observatory has made detailed observations of surprisingly hot gas that may be orbiting or falling towards the supermassive black hole lurking at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation.

“The black hole appears to be devouring the gas,” said Paul Goldsmith, the U.S. project scientist for Herschel at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “This will teach us about how supermassive black holes grow.”

Our galaxy’s black hole is located in a region known as Sagittarius A* — or Sgr A* for short — which is a nearby source of radio waves. The black hole has a mass about four million times that of our sun and lies roughly 26,000 light-years away from our solar system…

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