Physicists Closer to Solving Mystery of Weird Glowing Ring Around Milky Way's Black Hole

Live Science | 4/18/2019 | Staff
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DENVER — Astronomers watched a high-speed gas cloud slam into the matter getting sucked toward Sagittarius A* — the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way — and then zip away into space. Now, careful observations have revealed just how much the gas cloud, which astronomers named G2, slowed after the collision.

That measurement tells scientists something important: the density of the hot matter surrounding Sagittarius A*, which is the nearest known supermassive black hole to Earth. SagittariusA* (SagA*) is quiescent, meaning it's not gobbling up a huge disk of matter and firing off jets. But there's still something hot and glowing surrounding it that physicists don't understand very well. The collision with G2 is offering astronomers one of their best clues yet as to what that glowing ring is made of.

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G2 - Deceleration - Something - Vicinity - Hole

G2’s deceleration proved that there was something substantial in the immediate vicinity of the black hole for G2 to crash through, Gillessen said.

Physicists detected that slowing-down using data from the GRAVITY collaboration at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. GRAVITY brings together infrared light from all four telescopes of the VLT to make one extra-sharp image. That allowed the researchers an unprecedented view of an object's near-miss with a black hole.

Course - Something - Gillessen - Live - Science

"So of course it was fun to watch, but now we've turned it into something useful," Gillessen told Live Science. "We have actually measured the atmosphere around a black hole at a radius, which was completely inaccessible before."

G2 is a strange object itself: a blobby mass of warm gas that might have a star system or two at its center, but isn't gravitationally bound by anything obvious, Gillessen said. Instead, it flows fluidly...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Live Science
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