Feasting black hole

A huge gas cloud is being stretched, shredded and destroyed by the black hole at the center of the Milky Way

By Stephen Ornes, 09:00 AM August 9, 2013

A computer simulation of what would happen to a gas cloud (the orange-yellow wisp) as it approached a black hole. In short: The cloud would be stretched and squashed like a strand of spaghetti. Credit: ESO/S. Gillessen/MPE/Marc Schartmann

The giant black hole at the center of our galaxy soon will shred a giant cloud of gas. And thanks to powerful telescopes, astronomers on Earth will be watching closely when the black hole’s gravity begins ripping the cloud apart, sometime in 2014.

Astronomers first noticed the cloud in 2011. Called G2, it was dangerously close to the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. A black hole is a region in space where nothing that gets close — even light— can escape its gravity.

Even in 201...

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