Razor-sharp optics on ground-based telescopes now allows astronomers to peer at events occurring near the very edge of our galaxys central black hole, providing new clues about the massive but invisible object at the core of the Milky Way.
The whirling accretion disk surrounding the supermassive black hole (center) at the core of the Milky Way Galaxy. As hot gas falls into the black hole, the energy is converted into radiation which is emitted in sudden bursts. The infrared emissions detected recently may accompany blobs of gas ejected from the disk (purple) or come from sparks that occur randomly in the accreting gas (yellow). (Courtesy of Nature, based on image created by Michael P. Owen)
In a paper in this weeks issue of Nature, a team led by University of California, Berkeley, physicist Reinhard Genzel, who also directs the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, reports the detection of powerful infrared flares from a region just outside the supermassive black hole.
If the black hole, which has a mass about 3.6 million times that of the sun, were at the center of our solar system, the flares would have come from somewhere within the orbit of Earth.
Robert Sanders | UC Berkeley News
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