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Black Hole At The Milky Way’s Center Will Soon Devour A Gas Cloud

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SGR A*For something that doesn’t exist — at least, not the way Stephen Hawking originally postulated — black holes certainly are generating a lot of space news these days. These cosmic badasses sure are busy, and as usual, they’re doing terrifying and awesome stuff, including annihilating gas clouds and, in the process, growing skins that look like fractals.

As with many galaxies, there’s a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and apparently, it’s about to lay waste to the G2 space cloud. Astronomers first identified the space cloud, as well as its fate, in 2011, and they’ve been waiting excitedly for the black hole to gobble it up ever since. The black hole, named Sagittarius A* (that’s A-star), has a mass four million times greater than that of the sun. The gas cloud is tiny by comparison — about three times as massive as Earth, and scientists predicted that the two cosmic entities would begin their dance in March of this year.

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Billions Of Potentially Habitable, Earth-Like Planets Could Exist In The Milky Way

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Milky WayAs you’ve probably heard by now (and definitely heard if you’re a regular GFR reader), the Kepler telescope’s (RIP) search for potentially habitable planets has been wildly successful. There are thousands of planets that might support life, but the bad news is that most of these are millions or billions of light years away, which means that in order for that to do us any good, we’d need to master manned interstellar travel, which is going to take us some time. But a recent discovery might change all that. Thanks to Kepler data, scientists have discovered that there are a bunch — possibly even billions — of Earth-like planets inside our own Milky Way.

The Milky Way has somewhere around 200 billion stars. Astronomers estimate that one in every five of these stars has at least one planet orbiting around it that is the right temperature to support the existence of liquid water on its surface, and thus, life. That’s at least 40 billion planets, and maybe far more. Of those 200 billion stars, roughly 40 billion are similar to the Sun, which means that those stars support at least 8 billion planets, and maybe more.

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Dung Beetles Use The Milky Way To Navigate

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DungSure, the Nobel Prize is nice and everything, but it isn’t half as interesting as the Ig Nobel Prize. The Ig Nobel Prizes, which are organized by the Annals of Improbable Research and are presented each fall at Harvard University, honor scientific achievements that sound pretty ridiculous, but which are based on sound science and actually merit thought. This year, there were a bunch of fun winners, including a psychology experiment that concluded that people who think they’re drunk tend to also think they’re attractive (this explains a lot, doesn’t it?), an experiment about the effects of opera music on mice who have had heart transplants, and a study that observed dung beetles using the cosmos to help their sense of direction.

The cosmically inclined dung beetle study actually won two Ig Nobels: one for biology and one for astronomy. It was a bIg Nobel win for the beetles and for the scientific team comprised or researchers from Sweden, Australia, South Africa, Germany, and the United Kingdom. They’ve even got the best research project tag line: “Some people think our research is crap.” Yes! Scientists who can pun (and laugh at themselves) are the best!