Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Milky Way black hole snacks on hot gas

Date:
May 7, 2013
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
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.

This artist's concept illustrates the frenzied activity at the core of our Milky Way galaxy. The galactic center hosts a supermassive black hole in the region known as Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*, with a mass of about four million times that of our sun. The Herschel space observatory has made detailed observations of surprisingly hot gas that may be orbiting or falling toward the supermassive black hole.
Credit: ESA-C. Carreau

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.

Even at that distance, it is a few hundred times closer to us than any other galaxy with an active black hole at its center, making it the ideal natural laboratory to study the environment around these enigmatic objects. At Herschel's far-infrared wavelengths, scientists can peer through the dust in our galaxy and study the turbulent innermost region of the galaxy in great detail.

The biggest surprise was the hot gas in the innermost central region of the galaxy. At least some of it is 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (around 1,000 degrees Celsius), much hotter than typical interstellar clouds, which are usually only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero, or minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 273 degrees Celsius).

The team hypothesizes that emissions from strong shocks in highly magnetized gas in the region may be a significant contributor to the high temperatures. Such shocks can be generated in collisions between gas clouds, or in material flowing at high speeds.

Using near-infrared observations, other astronomers have spotted a separate, compact cloud of gas amounting to just a few Earth masses spiralling toward the black hole. Located much closer to the black hole than the reservoir of material studied by Herschel in this work, it may finally be gobbled up later this year.

Spacecraft, including NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, will be waiting to spot any X-ray burps as the black hole enjoys its feast.

Herschel is a European Space Agency mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel's three science instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, supports the United States astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

More information is online at http://www.herschel.caltech.edu , http://www.nasa.gov/herschel and http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Herschel .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Milky Way black hole snacks on hot gas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507201528.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2013, May 7). Milky Way black hole snacks on hot gas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507201528.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Milky Way black hole snacks on hot gas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507201528.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins