- uploaded: Jan 26, 2012
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Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the astronomers of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered a massive gas cloud (equivalent to three Earth-masses) accelerating towards the center of the Milky Way where the black hole known as Sgr A* (pronounced Sagittarius A star) lies. The results of this research were published in the 5 January 2012 issue of the journal Nature (http://arxiv.org/abs/1112.3264). According to ESO, [QUOTE] "during a 20-year programme using ESO telescopes to monitor the movement of stars around the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, a team of astronomers led by Reinhard Genzel at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, has discovered a unique new object fast approaching the black hole. Over the last seven years, the speed of this object has nearly doubled, reaching more than 8 million km/h. It is on a very elongated orbit and in mid-2013 it will pass at a distance of only about 40 billion kilometres from the event horizon of the black hole, a distance of about 36 light-hours. (...) This object is much cooler than the surrounding stars (only about 280 degrees Celsius), and is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. It is a dusty, ionised gas cloud with a mass roughly three times that of the Earth. The cloud is glowing under the strong ultraviolet radiation from the hot stars around it in the crowded heart of the Milky Way." IMAGE CREDITS: ESO/MPE/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)/VISTA/J. Emerson/Digitized Sky Survey 2; M. Schartmann/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser (ESO). MUSIC CREDITS: BUTTERFLY TEA - "Walk to the Hell Camp"; from the album "Children of Neijia"; released by its author under an Attribution, Non-commercial, Share-alike, 3.0 Creative Commons License.