G2’s ‘close’ encounter with the supermassive black hole Sgr A*

A simulation of the gas cloud G2’s encounter with the supermassive black hole Sgr A*. The blue lines mark the orbits of the so-called “S” stars that are in close orbits around the black hole. (Image by ESO/MPE/Marc Schartmann).
In queste ore, una nube “suicida” di gas si sta dirigendo verso il buco nero supermassiccio della nostra galassia. Si tratta di un evento raro che può accadere in qualsiasi momento durante questi giorni. Dunque, gli astronomi hanno oggi la possibilità di studiare questo fenomeno osservando un buco nero “in azione” mentre si alimenta di gas e polveri.

Northwestern University’s Daryl Haggard has been closely watching the little cloud, called G2, and the black hole, called Sgr A*, as part of a study that should eventually help solve one of the outstanding questions surrounding black holes. How exactly do they achieve such supermassive proportions? Her latest data has been discussed during “Advances in Astrophysics,” held at Gwinnett Room of the Savannah International Convention Center. The briefing is part of the American Physical Society (APS) April Meeting in Savannah, Ga.

The closest approach between the black hole and gas cloud is predicted to occur any day now.

Haggard has been using two world-class observatories, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Very Large Array, to gather data on this potentially spectacular encounter. “Our most recent Chandra observation does not show enhanced emission in the X-rays”, Haggard said. “From the X-ray perspective, the gas cloud is late to the party, but it remains to be seen whether G2 is fashionably late or a no show. This work is fascinating because it will teach us about the growth and feeding of supermassive black holes. We know they are big, and we know they are out there, in vast numbers, but we aren’t sure in detail how they get their mass. Do they grow rapidly when they are young, like our kids do, or do they grow in fits and starts, whenever fuel becomes available? In watching the encounter between Sgr A* and G2 we may catch a massive black hole in the act of snatching its next meal”, she said.

More at Northwestern University: Watching for a Black Hole to Gobble up a gas Cloud


Abstract: Hot News from the Milky Way's Central Black Hole

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