Black Hole Tears apart Gas Cloud

Black holes residing in the centres of galaxies have been a focus of astrophysics for many years. For decades, the research group of Professor Reinhard Genzel at the Max-Planck-Institute for extraterrestrial Physics, a partner institution of the Excellence Cluster Universe, has been observing a sky region near the centre of our galaxy. The astronomers have now discovered a gas cloud moving towards the black hole, reaching its nearest distance as early as in the year 2013. Due to the extremely high gravitational forces of the black hole the cloud first is stretched before being torn apart and swallowed by the black hole. These events are expected to be accompanied by a significant rise of radiation in the X-ray spectrum.

In order to explain and interpret these observations, scientists perform complex simulations using high-performance computers. The simulations of the gas cloud meeting the black hole were provided by the LMU group of Professor Andreas Burkert, the Universe Cluster’s vice president. The results of the observations will be published in the next issue of the Nature journal. The article is online from today.


Further information:

press release of the MPE

press release of the ESO

original publication

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Copyright: ESO / MPE / M. Schartmann / L. Calçada

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