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Astronomers Find Gas Cloud About To Fall Into Black Hole

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the a-light-snack dept.

Space 94

First time accepted submitter pigrabbitbear writes "Black holes are basically celestial Cookie Monsters, gobbling anything and everything in sight. But because that appetite includes light itself, it's incredibly rare for us to actually see a black hole suck back an interstellar treat. Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope have found just that: a mysterious, giant gas cloud that's rapidly been pulled into the maw of a supermassive black hole. The researchers, led by Reinhard Genzel of the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, discovered the cloud as part of a now 20-year ESO program tasked with tracking stars as they whirl around the supermassive black hole, known as Sgr A*, at the center of our galaxy."

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Ugh...hey Samzenpus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379706)

"it's incredibly rare for us to actually see a black hole suck back an interstellar treat"
 
What is this? KINDERGARTEN?
 
So much for kdawson. If it were timothy's submission, it would be riddled with useless semicolons and parenthetical asides...

Re:Ugh...hey Samzenpus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380386)

"it's incredibly rare for us to actually see a black hole suck back an interstellar treat" What is this? KINDERGARTEN? So much for kdawson. If it were timothy's submission, it would be riddled with useless semicolons and parenthetical asides...

In other words ... what an astounding, amazing, unexpected, preposterous, unprecedented, surprising BUNCH OF FUCKING NIGGERS!

They're such niggerfaces I just can't believe it. They are like Bernic Mac. They've got faces only a black man could ever possibly have.

I'll have you know, good sir, that kindergarten is very rough on fatherless bastard ghetto crack-baby niggers. If a nigger can't speak proper English, so you could call them on the phone and know instantly they are in fact a nigger, then they fit this category. Maybe you are starting to see that there's a LOT of niggers in that category!

Look. Don't be racist mmmkay? Timothy's submission is riddled with grammatical errors and stylistic problems because Timothy is, in fact, black and wouldn't have this job if not for affirmative action. So what if 1,000 white men also applied who would have done a much better job? We have social engineering to perform and guilt is as good a reason as massive changes away from a merit-based system as anything! Now stop being so damned insensitive... you need sensitivity training to end those racist thoughts... no, somehow reverse racism isn't racism .. somehow... yeah you definitely need re-education!

Re:Ugh...hey Samzenpus (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381310)

Just a thought - it would be nice that once an AC post reached troll -5 score, IP and related details (ISP, geograpgical location, anything available from HTTP headers) of the poster is added to his post.

Maybe it would discourage some of the trolls.

Re:Ugh...hey Samzenpus (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382034)

Just a thought - it would be nice that once an AC post reached troll -5 score, IP and related details (ISP, geograpgical location, anything available from HTTP headers) of the poster is added to his post.

That would be a good idea right up to the point where it was realised that such a technique could be used to harass, intimidate and silence any user expressing an unpopular opinion. Or, at least, any opinion likely to be unpopular with 5 or more users of the type who are happy to abuse the mod system to attack those they disagree with.

If you extended it to logged-in users, it could be used to give strong evidence as to a given account's true identity. In either case, it wouldn't even need much coordination, so long as our moderately-savvy amoral users downmodded every post they wanted to do this to, realising that there are probably enough like-minded modders out there.

In short, crap idea.

It seems odd to me . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38384938)

It seems odd to me that someone fill their post with ignorant racial slurs, yet there are filters to prevent them from posting ASCII art, or from typing in all capital letters.

I mean, what's the harm in using all caps? ARE THEY AFRAID SOMEONE IS GOING TO THINK THEY ARE BEING YELLED AT, AND GET ALL OFFENDED?!?

Re:It seems odd to me . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38385826)

Ignorant?

Re:Ugh...hey Samzenpus (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38386266)

Abuse the moderation system? Hell, most of the comments I've seen in this thread are offtopic, yet they get modded up anyway.

I wish they'd bring the old metamoderation system back.

Re:Ugh...hey Samzenpus (0)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380564)

Hell,
I felt stupid reading that without my 1 year old grandson setting on my lap.
Stupid...

There, there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38388032)

I felt stupid reading that without my 1 year old grandson setting on my lap.
Stupid...

Because he would have gotten it and you didn't?

Re:Ugh...hey Samzenpus (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387818)

It is a quote from TFA...

Re:Ugh...hey Samzenpus (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 2 years ago | (#38391774)

I liked the title:

Astronomers Find Supermassive Black Hole Gobbling Down a Gassy Meal (Video)

Really? A black hole at the center of our galaxy? Who'd have thunk it.

fp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379720)

fp ohhh yeah! *walls smash*

Not... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379722)

... that there's anything wrong with that.

Sweet! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379730)

When can we colonize it? We're totally ready. I heard the tin cans are ready to launch into the upper atmosphere! Why, that's almost Star Trek level technology!

Taintballsregion! (0)

kixome (1636329) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379750)

How sweet! That's the balls and the taint! That whole general region!

Who farted? (-1, Flamebait)

rev0lt (1950662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379768)

I'm shure there is a racist joke here somewhere...

Re:Who farted? (2, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379852)

Yeah. Unfortunately, you can't see it because the black hole sucked it up.

pics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379774)

Pictures or it didn't happen. And I mean high resolutions, all you see there are a bunch of dots humping.

Pull my finger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379810)

Then you will really have a gas cloud coming out of my b(l)ack hole

What an honour. (5, Interesting)

bejiitas_wrath (825021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379818)

To see this cosmic event happening before our eyes. I know that it has already happened and we are seeing the light from the event finally reaching our eyes or CCDS, but this is an awesome event to watch and shows how incredible the universe around us truly is.

It is humbling to think that it could be our solar system spiraling into the black hole, but we could save Earth if we had 6*6*6 levels of energy, we could keep Earth poised next to the black hole and watch everything else fall in. Until the Doctor opens the Satan pit that is...

Re:What an honour. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381750)

>To see this cosmic event happening before our eyes.*

*For certain values of "see", "happening", "before" and "eyes".

Re:What an honour. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38398142)

What, couldn't be arsed to read the very next sentence? :P

I know that it has already happened and we are seeing the light from the event finally reaching our eyes or CCDS [...]

Re:What an honour. (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382740)

Until the Doctor opens the Satan pit that is...

Don't be silly....

That was Cthulhu in the pit (strongly psychic alien taking over people's minds with squid faced minions.)

Seriously people, get it right! :P

Re:What an honour. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38383472)

To see this cosmic event happening before our eyes. I know that it has already happened and we are seeing the light from the event finally reaching our eyes

But that's no different than seeing anything else. You cannot see the present, you can only see the past. That sunset? Eight minutes old. That red dot in the sky they call Mars? It's ten to twenty minutes in the past. That coffee cup you're reaching for? It's the image of that cup from the tiniest fraction of a second ago.

Seeing that event that happened so long ago is no different than seeing the sun from eight minutes ago, or the coffee cup from a tiny fraction of a second ago.

Re:What an honour. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38383972)

It's worse than that.

The impulses and other interactions that make up your neural activity aren't instantaneous either. One clump of your brain is humming along in total ignorance of what is even at that moment occurring on the other side. The delusion of "now" is even more insidiously false than mere travel time of a light beam to your eyes. Your brain is about as synchronized and contemporary as an easy chair thrown into a wood chipper: it's all over the place all the time. Consciousness is the sheerest coincidental confluence of neural events taking relying on the extremely small latency of intra-cranial impulses.

The entire concept of "now" is pure fiction. Neurologically, physically, metaphorically and scientifically.

Just a damned useful and convincing fiction.

Re:What an honour. (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38388676)

The entire concept of "now" is pure fiction. Neurologically, physically, metaphorically and scientifically.

Nah; that's only true if you don't understand (or refuse to deal with) concepts like "digits of precision" or "error bars" or "resolution limit", which are used all over the place in scientific and engineering circles.

If you understand those concepts, then it's fairly trivial to define "now" internally to your brain and/or body; it's just the time interval that your mental processes can resolve. This interval differs for different people, of course. It's generally greater than a millisecond for humans, because that's (very roughly) the time required for nerve signals to transit the brain.

One thing that some people have to deal with is that message transit time between your brain and your extremities can be greater than what your eyes and brain can resolve. This is known to many athletes and musicians, who have to deal with millisecond-level precision in many of the things they do. This has also been proposed as an important factor in the evolution of the human brain, triggered by the need to throw things (rocks, spears,) to kill prey.

Thus, it has been estimated that for primitive hunters and baseball pitchers, the hand's release of the projectile must be precise to less than a millisecond. But the brain-to-muscle nerves transmit at about 100 m/s, so the roughly 1 m trip to your hands takes about 10 ms, ten times longer than the release "window" for accuracy in throwing something. This requires some sophisticated processing power to calculate the timing of nerve signals

Similarly, musicians routinely time notes to a precision of around 1 ms, so from the brain's viewpoint, the commands must be sent out before the note begins. Also, some instruments (mostly bass instruments) have a time lag of several ms before they sound, which adds to the time. So in some cases, musicians' brains are sending muscle commands for several notes ahead of the one sounding right "now".

This is all part of the complex task of earning to perform such precise high-speed actions. But it's all based on a fairly clear concept of "now" as the smallest time interval that your brain can resolve. The interesting part is that our brains can learn to automatically adjust for the nerve-speed delays, and can learn to "see" the delays well enough to send out messages that will arrive in the near future, outside the brain's "now" window.

Of course, when you're dealing with astronomical distances, Einstein was right when he pointed out that there are some serious problems with the concept of "now" that we use in our everyday lives. It took a bit of thought (and some fairly sophisticated math) to get things right on such scales. It's not surprising that people without advanced physics degrees tend to resort to somewhat mystical language when they try to talk about the topic. Or claim that it's meaningless. ;-)

Re:What an honour. (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#38390376)

To see this cosmic event happening before our eyes. I know that it has already happened and we are seeing the light from the event finally reaching our eyes

But that's no different than seeing anything else. You cannot see the present, you can only see the past. That sunset? Eight minutes old. That red dot in the sky they call Mars? It's ten to twenty minutes in the past. That coffee cup you're reaching for? It's the image of that cup from the tiniest fraction of a second ago.

Seeing that event that happened so long ago is no different than seeing the sun from eight minutes ago, or the coffee cup from a tiny fraction of a second ago.

The misunderstanding is that there is something like synchronicity between places -- there isn't! You learn that in distributed systems as well as in special relativity. The only synchronicity that makes sense is to connect places by light rays. So you can say, something you see happens right now, as now is the light-cone you receive.

Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck up (4, Interesting)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379826)

... light. They are hard to see because there aren't very many of them.

They are the residue left over by the death and subsequent collapse of particularly massive stars. Such stars can take other courses during their death throes, such as ejecting their mass all over the neighborhood in a supernova.

It is thought that at the center of our own galaxy and many other galaxies there are black holes that are the result of the particularly plentiful gas and dust there, but they are hard to see because they are surrounded by more of that gas and dust.

While we cannot see what is inside the event horizon of a black hole, we certainly can see what is just outside the even horizon. It's not just that there is an incredibly strong gravitational field there, but the gradient of that field is quite steep, that is, as one gets ever closer to the event horizon, the field gets increasingly stronger quite quickly.

The result is that any particle bound states such as atoms, molecules, atomic nuclei, or even nucleons such as neutrons and protons are torn apart because the particles that are closer to the event horizon are accellerated inward much faster than the more distant particles, despite the distance between all of the particles in that bound state being no more than the distance of an electron from the proton in a Hydrogen atom.

The result of all that tearing apart of bound particles, as well as the particles colliding with each other, charged particles interacting with the magnetic fields of rotating black holes and so on, is that the region just outside of the even horizon emits particularly intense, high energy, short wavelength X-Rays.

Those X-Rays are so bright that we can see them, if I understand correctly, being emitted from the material falling into black holes located in other galaxies.

I'm not really a software engineer; I only play one on the Internet. But I really am an astronomer.

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (5, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379910)

Wouldn't that mean black holes aren't necessarily rare, but only that black holes near gas clouds are rare? There could be millions of them in the interstellar void, but with no gas to form an accretion disk, they would be completely invisible. And lensing effects would be incredibly difficult to detect. In fact, I thought that we only really detected most black holes if they were part of a binary system (which gives plenty of matter for x-ray radiation).

And, of course, it is absolutely impossible to see something that emits no radiation (ignoring the possibility of Hawking radiation, which is too weak to see in most cases anyways), so technically black holes aren't hard to see: they are impossible to see. We can only infer it's presence through the effect it has on matter outside the black hole itself. The x-ray radiation is not technically from the black hole itself, but rather from the effect that it's gravitational field has on incoming matter.

I'm not an astrophysicist... but I'm working on changing that.

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (1)

MurukeshM (1901690) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380082)

Wouldn't that mean black holes aren't necessarily rare, but only that black holes near gas clouds are rare? There could be millions of them in the interstellar void, but with no gas to form an accretion disk, they would be completely invisible.

But if a star formed there, then shouldn't there be plenty of matter hanging around? Of course, if millions of black holes sucked up everything in the void... Nah, millions of black holes => a lot more stuff in the void. It just seems unlikely. Say, what happens when two black holes collide?

Two black holes colliding would be quite cool (4, Interesting)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380258)

Because if they did, quite likely they would emit some gravitational waves that we might be able to detect with optical interferometers here on earth.

Einstein's general relativity predicts such waves theoretically, but because gravity is such a weak force - consider that an object with the mass of the earth is required to make you feel your own mass bearing down on the soles of your feet - even the gravitational waves emitted by the objects in our own solar system are too weak to detect.

Gravitational waves are only emitted from asymmetric motions of large amounts of mass. The explosion of a supernova, while not perfectly symmetric, is close enough to symmetric that it doesn't emit detectable waves.

I would expect that two black holes orbiting close to each other at very high radial velocity, or just two very massive stars, would emit waves we would eventually be able to detect here on earth.

We have yet to find any exceptions to the theoretical predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity, but there are a number of things that it predicts that we are as yet technologically unable to confirm either through experiment or astronomical observation.

A few years ago, someone measured the speed of gravity by observing the effect of Jupiter's gravitational field on the apparent position of a bright radio source, but their precision was so poor that if the speed of gravity is significantly different than the speed of light, their measurement was unable to distinguish it.

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38384218)

Say, what happens when two black holes collide?

When I'm curious about something I google it. [universetoday.com]

What Happens When Supermassive Black Holes Collide?
by Fraser Cain on February 29, 2008

As galaxies merge together, you might be wondering what happens with the supermassive black holes that lurk at their centres. Just imagine the forces unleashed as two black holes with hundreds of millions of times the mass of the Sun come together. The answer will surprise you. Fortunately, itâ(TM)s an event that we should be able to detect from here on Earth, if we know what weâ(TM)re looking for.

I expect that you are correct, however... (5, Interesting)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380236)

... because most black holes are formed from the remains of particularly large stars, and such stars are formed from the gravitational collapse of large gas and dust clouds, one would expect most black holes to be close to regions where lots of stellar formation has taken place. Such places would quite likely still have lots of gas around.

However a black hole could have formed early in the history of the Universe. It is thought that if there are any really small black holes, they are left over from the Big Bang. Those black holes could indeed be in places where we could not detect them, and because they are not very massive, we could not see their effects on nearby matter.

It is the very small black holes that emit lots of Hawking radiation. The intensity of it increases with the gradient of the gravitational field. Large block holes have a less steep gradiant, smaller holes a steeper one. Very small black holes may have formed early in the history of the Universe, but by now would have evaporated due to emitting all that Hawking radiation.

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (4, Interesting)

AlanS2002 (580378) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380610)

Wouldn't that mean black holes aren't necessarily rare, but only that black holes near gas clouds are rare? There could be millions of them in the interstellar void, but with no gas to form an accretion disk, they would be completely invisible. And lensing effects would be incredibly difficult to detect. In fact, I thought that we only really detected most black holes if they were part of a binary system (which gives plenty of matter for x-ray radiation).

And, of course, it is absolutely impossible to see something that emits no radiation (ignoring the possibility of Hawking radiation, which is too weak to see in most cases anyways), so technically black holes aren't hard to see: they are impossible to see. We can only infer it's presence through the effect it has on matter outside the black hole itself. The x-ray radiation is not technically from the black hole itself, but rather from the effect that it's gravitational field has on incoming matter.

I'm not an astrophysicist... but I'm working on changing that.

This is similar to one alternate theory to the whole dark matter garbage, to explain the amount of mass thought to exist in the universe (most of which we can't account for). Except instead of millions this theory suggests billions of tiny (about the size of a small town) black holes.

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (1)

kanto (1851816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380284)

What I'd like to know is how much matter would there have to be in this dust cloud for X-ray emissions to be dangerous to life in the galaxy? I'm assuming that this one isn't since it's "only" 3 times the mass of the earth and would presumably not go in all at one time; there's bound to be a tipping point though at which the radiation will be energetic (and sustained) enough to sterilize the planets in a galactic plate.

Life would not be possible near a black hole (4, Informative)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380358)

But I don't expect that many black holes would be big enough as to irradiate an entire galaxy to the point that life is impossible anywhere in that galaxy.

However, the very brightest celestial objects that we can see are the Quasars, or Quasi-Stellar objects. They are "Stellar" in that they appear to be pinpoint light sources, but their spectrum is heavily weighted to the bluer, higher energy end of the spectrum, and if I understand correctly do not appear to be radiating light as a result of just being hot. When an object emits thermal radiation, while that radiation is blueer (or 'X-ray-er') if it is particularly hot, the shape of the spectral intensity distribution takes an easily calculated form called the Planck Distribution.

There are lots of other ways to generate blue light other than thermally, but for many years, the incredible power of the Quasars was a mystery. The red shift of their spectrum that results from the expansion of the Universe between us and them is quite large, so clearly they are the farthest objects we can see, as well as the oldest, and must have formed not long after the beginning of the Universe.

It is thought now that the Quasars are very large black holes, such as those at the centers of some galaxies such as our own, but much much larger. I expect life would not be possible anywhere in their vicinity.

If a supernova goes off in any nearby galaxy, we can easily resolve it from its neighboring stars with average sized astronomical telescopes. Supernovas in more distant galaxies cannot be resolved, but they are at times as bright as the entire galaxy that they are contained within. If a supernova goes off within our own galaxy, at times we can easily see it at high noon on a bright, sunny day.

If any of our nearby celestial neighbors were to go off in a supernova, we would only get the bad news when all life on earth was wiped out almost instantly. We wouldn't just get 73h c4nc3r and die a few years later; the Earth's entire atmosphere would be blasted off into interstellar space.

The abundance of heavy elements not just on earth but throughout our solar systems makes us certain that the Sun is a second generation star, whose first generation star went off in a supernova, the intense pressure, heat and particle energy of which formed all those heavy elements that we find so useful for things like hard drive platters and Liquid Crystal Displays.

Re:Life would not be possible near a black hole (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380856)

Thanks for all your informative posts on this topic. I enjoyed reading them, and appreciate the lean towards layman's terms. Felt I had to say so. :)

thank you. I really appreciate your kind words (2)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381824)

i regard my writing as by far the most important thing I do, but never even attempt to get paid for it as I feel that informationnshould be as free as the wind.

but my colleagues over at Kuro5hin bluntly ignore my writing while giving me no end of crap for not being more productive as a coder, despite my having made clear for years that I am sick to death of writing software, and am struggling to find some waybto not have to write software at all anymore, so I can devote more time to my writing and music.

Re: Life would not be possible near a black hole (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381724)

I don't think that's true. Read here:
http://stupendous.rit.edu/richmond/answers/snrisks.txt
Although supernovae are among the biggest explosions we know, space is very very big and the earth's athmosphere is very dense, compared to interstellar space. A supernova has to be quite close to produce a noticeable effect.

To quote the conclusion from the linked article above:

Conclusion: I suspect that a type II explosion must be within a few
parsecs of the Earth, certainly less than 10 pc (33 light years),
to pose a danger to life on Earth. I suspect that a type Ia explosion,
due to the larger amount of high-energy radiation, could be several times
farther away. My guess is that the X-ray and gamma-ray radiation
are the most important at large distances.

Re: Life would not be possible near a black hole (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382498)

The author of that paper claims he couldn't find research on gamma ray bursts. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=deadly+gamma+ray+burst [lmgtfy.com]

Re:Life would not be possible near a black hole (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382468)

Gamma ray bursts could ruin our collective day by sterilizing the planet in minutes if one were to happen nearby. Thankfully, that appears to be unlikely.

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/gammaray.htm [osu.edu]
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Earth_Deemed_Safe_From_Gamma_Ray_Bursts.html [spacedaily.com]

Re:Life would not be possible near a black hole (1)

sackbut (1922510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38384542)

Remembering though that these incredibly powerful events (gas falling into a black hole) would radiate their most powerful energy (ie: accelerated particles) in two polar opposite directions. These beams are (thought to be) a result of tight magnetic and gravitational fields that are twisted and help to collimate whatever doesn't fall in to the black hole. If these are pointed directly at us we see and could be affected by them. If they are a little off directed at us then they sweep by us up to multiple times per second due to high rotational rate of the dense object. See pulsars.

Re:Life would not be possible near a black hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38386372)

The Sun is at least a second gen star and quite possibly a third. Look at the age of the universe, the age of the sun, and relative composition of both the sun and solar system.

See Phil Platt's Bad Astronomy for more on the 'what if there was a local black hole\supernova' stuff. We're in no danger whatsoever and any discussion of the topic is purely theoretical. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (5, Interesting)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380350)

I seem to remember back in my university days (its been a little while) studying that their was an inverse relationship between the size of a black hole the temporal and gravitational effects at the event horizon. In effect, if the black hole was massive enough (million of stars), it could be theoretically possible to cross the event horizon with my atomic structure intact. I always imagined what a fate it would be to fall into such a monster and watch eternity pass before my eyes. I am not an astronomer, however, so my memory on this matter could be faulty.

you are correct (2, Informative)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380388)

What makes the approach to a black hole dangerous is not the intense gravity, but the very high gradient of that gravity. That is, if you were falling headfirst into a small black hole, your head would be accellerated inward faster than your feet, as if you were on a medieval stretching rack. If you were falling into a large black hole, while your head would still be accellerated more than your feet, the structure of your body would be strong enough to resist any injury.

Re:you are correct (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38384636)

Darn, once again I'm reminded of an Asimov story I can't remember the name of. It concerned a spacecraft manufacturer (with two heads and four legs) hiring a detective to find out why people are dying in the ships that are supposed to be indestructable. Turns out that they got too close to a black hole and the gravity gradient tore them apart.

Niven not Asimov (2)

drerwk (695572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38385052)

I recall the story, but not the name. It would be in the Known Space Niven universe. The creature you describe is a Puppeteer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierson's_Puppeteers [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Known_Space#Invulnerable_Hulls [wikipedia.org]
The story you reference may be Neutron Star.

Re:Niven not Asimov (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396812)

You're right, that's the story. It was indeed Niven, and it was a neutron star rather than a black hole. Been a couple of decades since I've read it. Iirc, I saw the story in a collection of stories by different authors, but I don't remember what book.

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (1)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380720)

It was a perfectly normal supergiant until it took an arrow in the knee.

Re:Black Holes aren't hard to see because the suck (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38388052)

It is thought that at the center of our own galaxy and many other galaxies there are black holes that are the result of the particularly plentiful gas and dust there, but they are hard to see because they are surrounded by more of that gas and dust.

It is thought that the black hole in this story IS the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagittarius_A* [wikipedia.org]

Are you sure you are an astronomer? Or did you not even read TFS?

"Cookie Monsters" (5, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379838)

Really Slashdot? "Cookie Monsters"? "Interstellar treat"? Wow, I think I may have found a new low for a Slashdot summary.

Well, until tomorrow, anyways.

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379880)

That's actually what the article says.

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379900)

And I was about to say, what would you expect from pigrabbitbear?

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379892)

from TFA:

Astronomers Find Supermassive Black Hole Gobbling Down a Gassy Meal (Video

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379940)

I should have read a little bit more... the summary is actually sumamrized from TFA:

" It’s no surprise that black holes are basically celestial Cookie Monsters, gobbling anything and everything in sight. But because that appetite includes light itself, it’s incredibly rare for us to actually see a black hole suck back an interstellar treat"

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380084)

You're obviously using an Ad Blocker and not seeing all the lovely Fisher Price banner ads on Slashdot today.
You'd think it was the season to buy crap for kids or something.

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380190)

The summary is actually quite good, in that it captures the essence of the article it's summarizing. It's made mostly of key, near-direct quotes.

I also don't see the problem with using a silly analogy in a popular science context. Even if it annoys you, the video is well worth a silly analogy.

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382400)

Indeed, how could we miss the opportunity to summarise it as "sucks harder than yo momma when the fleet's in town"?

Re:"Cookie Monsters" (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382954)

At least it's accurate. Unlike the sensationalist ones we've gotten. Contrast this one with something like "Gluttonous blackhole devouring our universe. It's currently devouring a gas cloud but will it satiate its appetite?"

Sfrist stoP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379850)

Rotate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379854)

Isn't it possible that the gravitational field of a black hole would also cause some "masses" to rotate around it like a sun or does it just suck everything in?

Re:Rotate (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379960)

Isn't it possible that the gravitational field of a black hole would also cause some "masses" to rotate around it like a sun or does it just suck everything in?

Yes-one of the confirmations of our own galaxy's central black hole was the observation of 3 (I think) stars, whizzing around an "invisible" object at break-neck speeds.

Re:Rotate (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379972)

There are suns orbiting this black hole. There's a diagram of them in the second link. Here's a direct link to the image: link [mpe.mpg.de]

Re:Rotate (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380354)

Black holes don't actually suck anything in. Things just more like... fall in. After spiralling down at ever increasing speed toward the event horizon. Once it passes this boundary, we're not sure what happens next. It could carry on spiralling down toward the singularity forever, never actually making contact with it but spiralling faster and faster until it hits the speed of light and converting to some exotic form of energy. There again it could just disintegrate into its component subatomic particles as soon as it passes the event horizon, which then fall straight into the singularity and become part of the mass.

I see em more as a magnet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380456)

You know how a magnet collects stuff? Same here, except you can't see it. A big, invisible, fucking magnet.

Re:Rotate (1, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380474)

Black holes don't actually suck anything in. Things just more like... fall in.

Well, can't we put up a sign or something? How many innocent gas clouds have to suffer needlessly from this preventable hazard? I mean, what does it say about us as a civilisation if our scientists just sit around watching while this tragedy occurs?

WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE HYDROGEN?!?

Re:Rotate (1)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381318)

Electrons just want to be free, let them be free man!

When? (3, Interesting)

polymeris (902231) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379894)

So what does "about to" mean in astronomical terms? Tomorrow? Next year? In a few million years?

Re:When? (5, Informative)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379976)

So what does "about to" mean in astronomical terms? Tomorrow? Next year? In a few million years?

Roughly two years: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=black-hole-gas-blob [scientificamerican.com]

Re:When? (3, Informative)

click2005 (921437) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380104)

But also 25,900 ± 1,400 years ago.

Re:When? - correction (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380362)

You mean 2 years minus 1.52 days since it's 1.52 light-days away lol. I thought for SURE I'd get to post once again that it actually already happened millions of years ago and they're stating that it's "about to happen" just like the last dozen stories like this. But not, the light from it gets here that quickly so I guess it didn't happen yet. I mostly posted it so people who wondered the same thing don't have to get out their calculator.
By the way, I don't know if anyone has seen Sesame Street lately but the cookie monster has gone from OCD psycho with an unhealthy cookie addiction to eating carrots and claiming that "cookies are a good sometimes snack." BULLSHIT! lol.

Re:When? - correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380654)

You mean 2 years minus 1.52 days since it's 1.52 light-days away lol.

Nope. The gas cloud will be 36 light-hours away from the black hole. The black hole is at, or near, the center of the galaxy. I couldn't find an exact distance for the black hole, but the galactic center is about 27,000 light years away.

They know it's about to be pulled in? (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379922)

So did these hot-shot researchers even consider warning the gas cloud? No, they just plan to sit back and watch it happen, the bastards!

Re:They know it's about to be pulled in? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381172)

Thing one: We are observers only. Never get involved in the affairs of other peoples or planets. (Unless there's children crying.)

Re:They know it's about to be pulled in? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38392906)

it should be obvious that the hot-shot researchers passed the gas cloud, and instead of owning up to their smelly social faux pas just want to push blame and guilt into a black hole

Correction (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379956)

Correction: This already happened 27,000 years ago. We're just getting a look at it now.

Re:Correction (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382708)

Correction: This already happened 27,000 years ago. We're just getting a look at it now.

Every article we see about an astronomical event, some would-be-insightful smartass pops up to make this exact same point.

We *know*.

Re:Correction (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | more than 2 years ago | (#38382920)

No, it happened now, but it took 27,000 years for it's now to reach us.

the thing about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380014)

the thing about black holes is, their black...

and the thing about space is... it's black

Re:the thing about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380322)

the thing about black holes is, their black...

Their black what?

Re:the thing about... (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381402)

+1 for Red Dwarf reference.

-1 for spelling the wrong word for "they're"

Glen Beck is falling (1)

Revek (133289) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380052)

Into Nancy Grace?

In sight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380194)

"Black holes are basically celestial Cookie Monsters, gobbling anything and everything in sight"

Except if it's being gobbled by a black hole, you can't see it since the light is going with it.

Gas Clouds Are A 'Sometimes Food' (3)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380230)

Even Cookie Monster knows that you can't snack on gas clouds all the time. You need to have a balanced diet, with a regular supply of Rocky Planets (with organic lifeform spices!!), Dark Matter, and of course Light. A healthy growing black hole needs to take in lots of light to stay strong.

Gas clouds - only sometimes.

Re:Gas Clouds Are A 'Sometimes Food' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38382070)

It is the exact opposite for us. We take in a lot of roughage and sometimes rocky food and give off gas clouds. Well, at least I do, especially after eating at Taco Bell.

At least... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380252)

...it's not about to get sucked into Uranus.

ALWAYS funny!!

Um... it's not a black hole. (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380334)

It's a charcoal grey hole, you insensitive racist clod!

That's a switch (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380462)

Usually the gas cloud comes OUT of the black hole.

Re:That's a switch (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380552)

Brown hole, surely?

Re:That's a switch (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 2 years ago | (#38383672)

Indeed, truly historic. Would this be considered a traf?

Re:That's a switch (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38383840)

In soviet russia...

What if? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38380652)

One super massive black hole gets sucked in by another super massive black hole?

Re:What if? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38381370)

Then the holes merge and you end up with a super-dooper massive black hole.

I saw the news (0)

Taylorz1 (2531976) | more than 2 years ago | (#38381446)

The researchers analyzed that, by 2013, the nebula will be very close from the black hole, black holes may be gradually swallowed. Participated in the study of the German astronomer Jile Sen said that the process will be swallowed by the phenomena of astronomers can provide valuable research data. http://www.2012cheapugg.com/ [2012cheapugg.com]
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