March 2, 2024

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Our galaxy’s black hole straddles this interstellar point like Laffy Taffy

Our galaxy’s black hole straddles this interstellar point like Laffy Taffy

Last week, scientists gave us With another episode of The Scary Supermassive Black Hole Diaries. In the center of our galaxy, a massive void called Sagittarius A* was caught on camera terrorizing a giant mass of interstellar debris.

While this amazing event in itself isn’t an entirely new discovery, the team of scientists’ latest details, Published February 21 in The Astrophysical Journalpaint the best picture yet of the story of this massive doomed point.

to be clear, Sgr A*, and thus everything in its close vicinity, is more than 20,000 light-years away from our vantage point on Earth, which technically means that this extreme situation occurred over 20,000 years ago. We only took the shots now because she was taken That long For the brilliance caused by the storm to reach our telescopes. However, for the sake of discussion and general sanity, I’ll talk about it in the present tense.

Back to our exciting cloud of dust and gas, this object is called X7, it has a mass equivalent to about 50 Earth’s and appears to have been swirling around Sgr A* for decades at unkempt speeds of about 700 miles each. second. But more importantly, the X7 has been carefully tracked by experts for the longest time because of its extremely puzzling shape—it looks like a Tic-Tac—and the fact that it was slightly reshaped very quickly for the sake of comfort.

Now, the cinematic story of X7 has been revealed to all of us.

“No other object in this region has shown such extreme evolution,” Anna Cirlo, a research associate at UCLA and lead author of the paper, said in a statement.

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As Ciurlo explains, the X7 started out as a comet. But she and her fellow researchers followed it for about 20 years, during which time they watched it lengthen as it went deeper…and deeper…in the gravitational pull of Sgr A*.

Here you can see the evolution of the X7’s shape as the black hole pulled it in over the years.

Anna Ciorlo/University of California

“It’s exciting to see significant changes in the shape and dynamics of X7 in great detail on a relatively short time scale as the gravitational forces of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy act on this object,” Randy Campbell, co-author of the paper and science operations at the Keck Observatory, It is a machine that helped the team analyze, said in a statement.

Theoretically, the researchers think it would take X7 approximately 170 years to complete its orbit around Sgr A* — but in reality, that point probably won’t quite get there.

The black hole’s embrace is relentless.

“We expect that the strong tidal forces exerted by the galactic black hole will tear X7 apart before it has completed even one orbit,” co-author Mark Morris, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, said in a statement.

Which brings me to Episode 852, probably, of The Scary Supermassive Black Hole Diaries. Here’s what will likely happen to the X7 during its eventual demise.

It flies into the center of the Milky Way to reveal the first image of the Sgr A* black hole.

EHT collaboration

When thinking of supermassive black holes, it’s not uncommon to imagine them “gobbling up” or “sucking up” bits of the universe, perhaps even to the tune of a serious movie. Hans Zimmer looks at you. But in reality, these voids are more negative than you might expect — and that’s what makes them even more terrifying.

Black holes dot the fabric of space, and they kind of just sit there with their gravitational pull until a star — or an interstellar cloud, in this case — accidentally gets too close. Immediately and effortlessly, the beast’s gravity begins to compress, stretch, twist and bend this orb. This will keep happening until the thing looks like a very long noodle. This process is called (deservedly) spaghettieff.

Slowly, the noodle thing approaches the black hole, until it crosses the fuzzy boundary between our universe and whatever lies within the abyss—the event horizon.

Outside this area, nothing can escape. Not atoms, not sound, not light, and certainly not X7’s now-shrunken black hole dinner. No, this thing will not be part of our universe by then. It will be part of another reality that we, humans, cannot access without suffering the same fate.

And after that, the point will “disappear” forever.

As for what exactly is the X7? Where did he come from?

“One possibility is that X7 gas and dust were emitted at the moment two stars merged,” Cirlo said, emphasizing that such star mergers are very common near black holes. In the process, the merged star is hidden within a shell of dust and gas, which may fit the description of G objects.

Despite the team’s cool new lens on the body, this part is still a mystery.