Mystery Object Appears Near Milky Way’s Monster Black Hole

A computer simulation shows the G2 gas cloud’s encounter with the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way, as well as the paths of the many other objects that orbit the black hole. Credit: SO/MPE/Marc Schartmann 3
A mystery object at the center of the galaxy has astronomers scratching their heads, and a new piece of information won’t be solving the case before the New Year.

By Calla Cofield|

In yet another twist to a saga of astronomical proportions, astronomers now say a gas cloud called G1 made a tight orbit around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy 13 years ago. The object could be one in a series of gas clouds, the second of which may soon become a snack for the black hole.

The G1 object can be seen in observational data sets as early as 2004. An object known as G2 has been in the news for more than a year, ever since astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany hypothesized that it was a gas cloud. If that is true, it should lose some of its material to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way (known as Sagittarius A* or Sgr A*). This giant black hole — its name is pronounced Sagittarius A(star) — doesn’t dine on material often, so the event would be a rare chance for astronomers to watch a black hole eat. [Top 10 Strangest Things in Space]

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