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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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Supermassive Black Hole Spins At Half The Speed Of Light

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black holeWhen I picture them in my mind, black holes are often a swirling vortex of nothing. But I’ll admit that I didn’t actually know how much or how fast they can spin, until now. Turns out there’s a huge black hole about six billion light-years away that’s spinning at half the speed of light.

In a paper published in Nature, astronomers detail how they used the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Hubble Telescope to observe x-rays being emitted by the black hole. That examination helped them identify the rate at which matter fell into it, which facilitated their calculations of the speed at which the black hole spins. The region emitting the x-rays is about three times wider than the radius of the center, or event horizon, from which no matter can escape—the size of that region relative to the size of the event horizon indicates how quickly it rotates.