If you’re in Astronomy circles you may have heard about a big cloud of Hydrogen heading toward the supermassive black hole in the centre of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*. The lead up to the cloud approaching the black hole had astronomers buzzing this year, as it would be a direct opportunity for us to see the black hole ‘devour’ the cloud. The black hole would show us some celestial fireworks and give us a huge opportunity to study their behaviour.
Astronomers watched closely, and then the cloud passed right by….
This is what it was expected to look like.
We should have seen the cloud torn apart as matter spiralled into the central black hole of our Galaxy, but nothing happened.
Now the mystery has been solved by UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez. She and her colleagues used data from the 10-meter Keck telescopes in Hawaii to determine that the object, known as G2, is likely a pair of binary stars that had merged due to the black hole’s strong gravitational influence. The massive resulting star was shrouded in a halo of hot gas and dust that obscured its true form.
When it passed by the black hole, instead of spiralling ...