‘Gas cloud’ bound for Milky Way galactic center ‘stretched like spaghetti’

“The head of the cloud is now travelling much faster than the tail.” Source: BBC News

BBC News published an article reporting that the, “Giant gas cloud heading for the black hole at the centre of our galaxy has begun its death spiral.

The cloud, just 3 times the mass of Earth was first spotted on course for ‘Sagittarius A’, as the center of our galaxy has been named, by astronomers in 2011.

According to the report:

The cloud, known as G2 is now being stretched out like a piece of spaghetti by the black hole’s extreme gravity.

This gravitational field has caused the head of the cloud to accelerate around the black hole and to speed back towards us.

Astronomers have been closely observing G2, hoping to catch it being ripped apart and eaten by the black hole.

Details of the latest observations are outlined in the Astrophysical Journal.

The astronomers have been using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to study the G2 gas cloud.  The report continues:

“The most exciting thing we now see in the new observations is the head of the cloud coming back towards us at more than 10 million km/h along the orbit – about 1% of the speed of light,” said Reinhard Genzel, from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. [Emphasis added]

The origins of this giant gas cloud are unknown, according to the report, but theories abound:

The new observations argue against the cloud possessing a stellar core that would constantly be supplying new gas.

“We see that the cloud is now being stretched so much that it resembles spaghetti. This means that it probably doesn’t have a star in it,” said Stefan Gillessen, also from the Max Planck Institute, who has been leading the observing team.

“At the moment we think that the gas probably came from the stars we see orbiting the black hole.”

Due to the tidal forces stretching G2, the front of the cloud is now moving about 500 km/s faster than its tail.

Click here for full report.


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