What’s for Dinner in the Milky Way

While for dinner tonight I am planning on eating some pizza as per usual, the Milky Way devours hot gas.

The Register reports that “the European Space Agency’s Herschel telescope has captured far-infrared images which appear to show the black hole sucking in a huge cloud of gas.” The images show the Milky Way’s black hole eating up hot gas like I’ll be eating up my pizza tonight.

Image via www.esa.int

 

INSATIABLE black hole in Milky Way’s heart crams hot gas into cavity

Space boffins have suggested the supermassive black hole at the centre of our universe may have a powerful appetite for hot gas.

The European Space Agency’s Herschel telescope has captured far-infrared images which appear to show the black hole sucking in a huge cloud of gas.

One astronomer said it looked as if the hole was “cooking its dinner”.

Set in a region known as Sagittarius A* at the middle of the Milky Way, the scarily huge hole has a mass of four million times that of our sun and is about 26,000 light-years away from earth. Nonetheless, this is by far the closest supermassive hole and is a source of fascination for space scientists.

Now the boffins hope their discovery will allow them to learn something about these interstallar maws.

“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, which assists the ESA with their Herschel mission. “This will teach us about how supermassive black holes grow.”

Read the complete article here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/08/black_hole_milky_way_gas/

For more on the mysteries of the Milky Way, check out this new book exploring all aspects of our home galaxy.

The Milky Way: An Insider’s Guide by William Waller

This book offers an intimate guide to the Milky Way, taking readers on a grand tour of our home Galaxy’s structure, genesis, and evolution, based on the latest astronomical findings. In engaging language, it tells how the Milky Way congealed from blobs of gas and dark matter into a spinning starry abode brimming with diverse planetary systems–some of which may be hosting myriad life forms and perhaps even other technologically communicative species.

William Waller vividly describes the Milky Way as it appears in the night sky, acquainting readers with its key components and telling the history of our changing galactic perceptions. The ancients believed the Milky Way was a home for the gods. Today we know it is but one galaxy among billions of others in the observable universe. Within the Milky Way, ground-based and space-borne telescopes have revealed that our Solar System is not alone. Hundreds of other planetary systems share our tiny part of the vast Galaxy. We reside within a galactic ecosystem that is driven by the theatrics of the most massive stars as they blaze through their brilliant lives and dramatic deaths. Similarly effervescent ecosystems of hot young stars and fluorescing nebulae delineate the graceful spiral arms in our Galaxy’s swirling disk. Beyond the disk, the spheroidal halo hosts the ponderous–and still mysterious–dark matter that outweighs everything else. Another dark mystery lurks deep in the heart of the Milky Way, where a supermassive black hole has produced bizarre phenomena seen at multiple wavelengths.