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Giant Black Hole At Milky Way's Core Stays Slim

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the no-high-fructose-corn-syrup dept.

Space 61

thomst writes "A team of researchers from Harvard and MIT announced at the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society a new theoretical model of how the super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way consumes gas from surrounding star clusters, based on a million seconds of observation by the orbital Chandra X-ray telescope. Astronomers had previously believed that the object, known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced 'Sagittarius A-Star') consumed only around one percent of the gases it stripped from the star clusters around it, but the new model reduces its consumption to 0.01 percent (i.e. — two orders of magnitude). Physorg.com's uncredited reporter gets the story right, while space.com's Andrea Thomspon clearly doesn't understand the mechanism behind the phenomenon (essentially, thermal conduction from the extremely-hot accretion disk heats the surrounding gas, causing it to expand, and thus move away from Sagittarius A*'s gravity well)."

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Quick Question (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30669768)

Harvard and MIT announced at the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society

Does this mean there is a President of Astrophysics?

Re:Quick Question (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30672338)

Naw, their society is an autonomous collective, specifically an anarcho-syndicalist commune. They take it in turns to act as sort-of-executive officer for the week but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting by a simple majority, in the case of purely internal affairs but by a two thirds majority, in the case of more major issues.

Hope that helps!

Drumroll please. (1)

Kc_spot (1677970) | more than 4 years ago | (#30669794)

Well it looks like this sucks... a little. *cues CSI:Miami Theme music!*

Re:Drumroll please. (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670160)

Oh come on. You get a C for effort on that one. Watch and learn...

Horatio, the star next to Sagittarius A was killed and only .01 percent of it's gasses were actually accreted!

Well Calleigh, just because it's appetite sucks, that doesn't mean it's not guilty of *murder*...

YEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH

Re:Drumroll please. (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670668)

Well Calleigh, just because it's appetite sucks,

Mmmmmm, Calleigh.

Mmmmm, appetite for sucking.

My apologies to Miss Procter. I'm sure she's heard worse. But then, how do we know she doesn't have such an appetite?

So who cares? (3, Interesting)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 4 years ago | (#30669900)

So is this story about the black hole, or about the fact that one place got the story right, while another author got confused? Sounds like a hit job to me, and probably better ways to fulfill vendettas.. Just sayin'...

Re:So who cares? (1)

jocabergs (1688456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670178)

I agree, maybe a astronomy blogger death match is in order. I'm guessing that "Physorg.com's uncredited reporter" is actually Slashdot's very own Anonymous Coward.

Re:So who cares? (3, Insightful)

thomst (1640045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670846)

Nope. I personally don't know or care about Andrea Thompson at all. But her name was on the space.com story, so I mentioned it. That's called "creditng the source."

As for my story, it is, of course, about both things - the new theory about Sagittarius A*, and the reporting about the theory - because both are relevant to me.

You're welcome not to care about either, though. Just try not to impute motives to other people without justification, lest you, yourself be judged a cynical troll with way too much time on its grubby little hands.

Just sayin' ...

I care. (1)

ReedYoung (1282222) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675382)

It's useful to know which popular science sites get it right and which don't. I prefer sciencedaily.com so far, but I'm always willing to give a chance to other secondary sources, provided they know enough to accurately summarize what's published in Nature, Science, and other peer-reviewed but costly research journals.

1 million seconds (3, Informative)

qazsedcft (911254) | more than 4 years ago | (#30669978)

A million seconds is about 11.5 days.

Re:1 million seconds (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30672854)

Just curious, does it mention if they were consecutive seconds? Or was this taken over the course of several months, with several recordings each night (because I imagine, even if the recordings were only at night, which is logical, and even if they were done over a good week, that still represents a very tiny portion of the black hole's existence, and any number of things could have happened in the span of one week's weeknights.)

Authorship and accuracy (2, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670016)

Actually, the Space.com story does mention the correct mechanism ("It also creates pressure that helps some stellar winds avoid the black hole's gravitational grasp altogether."), but also a second one ("The conduction causes some of the heat in the gas to travel outwards, reducing the strength of the radiation that results from the black hole's consumption.") that sounds a bit odd. Physorg doesn't credit a reporter because they're printing a CfA-authored story (as evidenced by the "Provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics").

Re:Authorship and accuracy (1)

OolimPhon (1120895) | more than 4 years ago | (#30671008)

Physorg doesn't credit a reporter because they're printing a CfA-authored story

Holy shit! I misread that as CIA... the mind boggles at the conspiracy theories that would cause...

Paging Andrea Thomspon (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670150)

This is your cue to come in and post,

"I am Andrea Thomspon, you insensitive clod".

Re:Paging Andrea Thomspon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30670286)

I like this new method for determining whether or not a commenter has read TFA - intentional misspellings in the summary text!

And let me be the first to say... (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670308)

After reading that yawner of a story, I am SO FUCKING GLAD I never pursued astro research after that summer of my junior year in college.

Re:And let me be the first to say... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30670390)

After reading that yawner of a story, I am SO FUCKING GLAD I never pursued astro research after that summer of my junior year in college.

When you bought a dildo and started exploring Uranus, you mean?

Re:And let me be the first to say... (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670680)

After reading that yawner of a story, I am SO FUCKING GLAD I never pursued astro research after that summer of my junior year in college.

If the story's boring it's the writer's fault. A good writer can write "how to mow a lawn" and make it interesting. Bad writing and boring teachers are what turns school kids off on learning, and most people off on science.

Re:And let me be the first to say... (4, Insightful)

ReedYoung (1282222) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675406)

Similarly, bad pay and zero prestige are what turn interesting and talented people off teaching.

Re:And let me be the first to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30671334)

I knew you slept with Astro in college. George Jetson will be so pissed.

gas expansion means...? (2, Interesting)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670324)

>> essentially, thermal conduction from the extremely-hot accretion disk heats the surrounding gas, causing it to expand, and thus move away from Sagittarius A*'s gravity well

If there is a dense enough concentration of gas that thermal expansion (i.e. pressure) can keep it out of the gravity well, then is there enough density to actually call that an atmosphere? It's an interesting thought... although going from "atmosphere" to anything else (life, etc.) has about a billion hurdles in-between.

I would assume that in the disc there is a range of concentration/pressure, but never thought it would reach/exceed our atmospheric pressure. That would be cool.

MadCow.

It's not rocket science... (1)

S-4'N3 (1232394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670350)

To Andrea Thomspon's credit, Astrophysics is very difficult. It's my guess that the source material (i.e. press release, article in a science journal, etc...) was neither well written or clearly explained.

Re:It's not rocket science... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678100)

neither/nor?

The Singularity Inductor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30670370)

Am I the only one who heard the Academician's voice and the eerie background music when I saw this [physorg.com] Chandra image?

"What actually transpires beneath the veil of an event horizon? Decent people... shouldn't think too much about that." - Prokhor Zakharov, For I Have Tasted The Fruit

Connections (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670464)

So women tend to like chocolate and telling them that they are slim. Milky Way's are made out of chocolate. It is all becoming clear now.

The Milky Way is on a diet because it is right after New Year's and after the holidays.

A million seconds? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670540)

Eleven and a half days is a lot more understandable. Who wrote that, Star Trek's Data?

Actually it's 11.574074074074074074074074074074 days, if Data's watching.

Re:A million seconds? (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670720)

Maybe it was a tribute to Carl Sagan.


"And the spiral galaxy was carefully watched for billions and billions of... microseconds."

Re:A million seconds? (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30673834)

Probably it was written that way to suggest a million seconds of data acquired over many nights, maybe thousands, not in a week and a half. Just a guess.

Galactic Voids.... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670654)

I think I figured out WHY there are galactic voids. The voids used to full of Galaxies ie. "The Missing Mass" that no one could find. If a galaxy's black hole gets too big it triggers the collapse of the Galaxy in question into a violent Quasar and it disappears from this universe within a few million years. The Mass is then removed from this universe as it tunnels itself into a another universal where it expands into it's own "Big Bang". The mass that is constantly being removed makes it appear the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Of course this process weeded out 90% of the Galaxies that were formed after the big bang and we are one of the few lucky survivors.. These survivors ended up with galactic black holes that were big enough to "throw off enough mass" to prevent them from going "critical mass" which would remove them and their host galaxies from the universe.

There, I have just solved the "Missing Mass", "Accelerating Expansion of the Universe", and "Dark Matter" problems in cosmology, I would like my prize now.

Re:Galactic Voids.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30671250)

The "Missing Mass" is mass we know is there but whereof we can't find corresponding (visible) matter. If it, as you suggests, would be removed from our universe it would not appear missing, just for the fact that it wouldn't affect the matter surrounding it any longer.

As for your prize, if you're ever in the neighbourhood, I'll get you a free cup of coffee.

Re:Galactic Voids.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675768)

The idea that there are "white holes" on "the other side" of black holes is pretty much without support.

Re:Galactic Voids.... (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678834)

The idea that there are "white holes" on "the other side" of black holes is pretty much without support.

I'm pretty sure that even black holes are rather difficult to prove. Seriously, the center of the galaxy is awfully dense. I'm sure the science is rigorous but I'm sure other phenomenon can explain this observation. Guess, I'll have to get my astrophysics books out.

Re:Galactic Voids.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678920)

Stephen Hawking beat you to this by a number of years. He famously restated his theory that information is not lost in a black hole, it just becomes information somewhere else.

Car makers should take this into account (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30670952)

The discovery that black holes can reduce their gas consumption of two orders of magnitude should help car makers to build better SUVs.

WhaHuhh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30671062)

but the new model reduces its consumption to 0.01 percent (i.e. — two orders of magnitude)

WhaHuhhhh?????

Re:WhaHuhh? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30671368)

Going from 1% to 0.01% is a chance of two (decimal) orders of magnitude. Two powers of ten. As in 100.

I'm not sure how important it was for them to point that out, but it's true.

Danger Will Robinson! Science article! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30671174)

Get read for the know-nothings to make stupid posts about nothing at all. Fantastic!

Re:Danger Will Robinson! Science article! (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30673938)

I was going to mod this Off-Topic or Redundant, but then I decided I really need to mod it "Self-referential" but that's not available.

should be called the 'Sagittarius A-Hole' (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30671210)

Seriously. How can you skip a joke like that? It's reaching out and grabbing you, pulling you in to never let go and never let anything escape.

PS: How much more do I have to type to get past the lameness filter?

A Rose By Any Other Name (2, Funny)

digitalgiblet (530309) | more than 4 years ago | (#30671270)

>"Sagittarius A* (pronounced 'Sagittarius A-Star')"

So... it isn't a star but they call it A-Star?

Perhaps "The Saggitarius Object Formerly Known As A-Star"...

Re:A Rose By Any Other Name (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30671470)

The star is meant to refer to the asterisk in the name - not to describe the object with the name. Or are you trying to make a cute joke?

Re:A Rose By Any Other Name (1)

digitalgiblet (530309) | more than 4 years ago | (#30672672)

I don't know if it is a cute joke or not, but I hope most folks recognize it as a joke...

I find it funny that the stated pronunication will forever make it sound to listeners like something it isn't (but something very closely related). Pronouncing the asterisk as "star" wouldn't be funny in any other context. Throwing "A" in there fairly guarantees that the speaker will have to explain, as in "Sagittarius A-Star which is not a star."

So whether or not you think it is cute is up to you since that is a subjective decision.

Now that I have dissected and explained it, we can all agree that it is a DEAD joke.

Re:A Rose By Any Other Name (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30673182)

From my impression of astronomers, they probably relish in the confusion and consider it a hilarious in-joke.

Astronomical object naming (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 4 years ago | (#30671400)

Perhaps someone can answer this question:
Will there ever be a Fred A*?

Misread? (1)

mpfife (655916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30672676)

Was I the only one who read that first as:

"...known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced 'Sagittarius A-Hole')...." Made a lot more sense when they talked about the accretion disk around the black-hole...

nassim haramein has anice teory about this (1)

gygy (1182865) | more than 4 years ago | (#30673316)

Take look at this: http://tinyurl.com/yfqbxhk [tinyurl.com] Haramein, who has spent his lifetime researching fields of physics from quantum theory to relativistic equations and cosmology, will lead you along a fascinating discussion geared to a layman's understanding of the fundamental nature of the universe and creation that includes black holes, gravitational forces, dimensions, and the very structure of space itself - all of which are integral parts of his now-complete Unified Field Theory.

Pronunciation of Source Name (1)

rickshaf (736907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679536)

"known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced 'Sagittarius A-Star')" Oh, horse puckey! I did radio astronomy for a lotta years. Most folks refer to that source as "Sag-A", although a few folks tried "Saj-A".

Exercise (1)

ma11achy (150206) | more than 4 years ago | (#30681054)

This is why exercise is good for you, people. Look at all the stuff its eating and it still manages to stay slim.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30681572)

Andrea got it right. Try reading her piece a little more carefully. Please tell me that you assumed she was wrong for some reason other than her sex. Also please tell me you trashed her without bothering to take a careful reading for some reason other than her sex. I hope it is not, "Gosh, everybody knows girls can't do math and science, so why waste the time to reconsider a hasty judgement." (I like judgement, so don't rush to a hasty judgment that I can't spell just because I do not follow all of Webster's peeves, crotchets, and quirks.)

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