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Very Large Telescope Observes Gas Cloud Being Ripped Apart By Black Hole

Unknown Lamer posted about 9 months ago | from the twirling-toward-oblivion dept.

Space 66

An anonymous reader writes "New observations (PDF) from ESO's Very Large Telescope show for the first time a gas cloud being ripped apart by the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The cloud is now so stretched that its front part has passed the closest point and is traveling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling towards it."

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66 comments

wow (1)

eyenot (102141) | about 9 months ago | (#44309899)

That black hole really ripped one.

Re:wow (1, Offtopic)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 9 months ago | (#44310031)

In Soviet Goat.cx, gas-cloud rips YOUR black-hole!

Re:wow (4, Funny)

plover (150551) | about 9 months ago | (#44310397)

In Soviet Goat.cx, gas-cloud rips YOUR black-hole!

You must be old here.

Re:wow (2)

Hillgiant (916436) | about 9 months ago | (#44312249)

You must be old here.

Son, that right there is a three digit UID. Ain't but about a thousand of those around any more.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44313391)

You must be old here.

Son, that right there is a three digit UID. Ain't but about a thousand of those around any more.

I heard the 2-digit UID's are nearly extinct... only a hundred left in the wild...

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310809)

"rip" "black hole" "gas cloud" -- It was a perfect setup. Came here expecting to find something like this, and was not disappointed. (one of the) first post(s), even.

Metric, you know? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44309915)

First off, congrats on using metric in the summary. This is a big deal and deserving of recognition.

Now that we're all on board, let's "kick it up a notch" and explore some of the other SI prefixes. Since the k in km means thousand, the phrase "10 million km/h" is effectively the same as "10 million thousand m/h", or "10 billion m/h". Since SI has a prefix for billion, we can further simplify our phrase by simply stating "10 Gm/h".

Wasn't that fun?

Re:Metric, you know? (5, Funny)

sycodon (149926) | about 9 months ago | (#44309983)

Metric aside, what scale is Very Large fall under?

Will the next one be called Big Ass Telescope? Then, perhaps, Ginormous Telescope?

I can't wait for the Fucking-A Telescope.

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310133)

Will the next one be called Big Ass Telescope? Then, perhaps, Ginormous Telescope?

I can't wait for the Fucking-A Telescope.

No no no, the next one will be the Very Smooth Telescope, then the Very Heavy Telescope and the Very Cold Telescope. I'm personally waiting for the Very Sophisticated Telescope.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#44310137)

After "Very Large" comes "Hella Big" and then "Freakin' Huge" followed by "My God, Look at that thing"

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310803)

... followed by "My God, Look at that thing"

AKA The Black Telescope

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310337)

Looking at Wikipedia, future planned telescopes include the European Extremely Large Telescope, and the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Re:Metric, you know? (2)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#44310503)

European Extremely Large Telescope

The British are in charge of naming it. So it will be called the "Slightly Larger Telescope".

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

TheTerseOne (2447418) | about 9 months ago | (#44311507)

And of course - if the "Slightly Larger Telescope" ever stops working for some reason - all you need to do is try turning it off and back on again.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 9 months ago | (#44310381)

Will the next one be called Big Ass Telescope? Then, perhaps, Ginormous Telescope?

Don't make fun of them. The eggheads organized a creative naming contest and this was the fair winner.

Re:Metric, you know? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310545)

http://www.vlf.it/frequency/bands.html

There is already a precedent

Extremely Large Telescope
Super Large Telescope
Ultra Large Telescope
Very Large Telescope
Large Telescope
Medium Telescope
Small Telescope
Very Small Telescope
Ultra Small Telescope
Super Small Telescope
Extremely Small Telescope

Re:Metric, you know? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310613)

Also note that this is a logarithmic scale. An Extremely Large Telescope would be the size of Switzerland and be able to read the serial numbers off the Mars rovers.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 9 months ago | (#44310757)

Metric aside, what scale is Very Large fall under?

Will the next one be called Big Ass Telescope? Then, perhaps, Ginormous Telescope?

I can't wait for the Fucking-A Telescope.

I can't wait for the Fucking-A Telescope.

Too bad it will be dwarfed by the "Venti" telescope. And there will be an "Extra-Big-Ass" model preceding the Ginormous version.

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310987)

It was going to be the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope, OWL.
http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/eelt/owl/index_3.html

But it's on hold to first build the Extremely Large Telescope.
http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/eelt/

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

clarkn0va (807617) | about 9 months ago | (#44311047)

If we follow the VGA standard, and if I'm reading this graphic [wikipedia.org] correctly, it will either be the SVLT or the WVLT, depending on which aspect ratio they choose.

SCSI (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 9 months ago | (#44311477)

Reminds me of SCSI. I guess it is all relative.

Just like a minicomputer, wasn't really all that "mini" but in comparison to normal room sized computers they were.

Just like the Microcomputer, isn't all that micro considering things like ultrabooks, or ITX, or even things like tablets or phones.

Heck I have seen some "portable" computers that were more like a full ATX case, with a handle and a low resolution 6" screen tacked on the end with a full sized keyboard attacked. "Luggable" maybe.

I would deduce that currently it is "Very Large" compared to most of its compatriots hence the moniker.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 months ago | (#44310097)

km/h is a rather well personally understood speed. So 10 million km/h gives us a better understand of the speed than 10 Gm/h only because we will need to convert back to km/h to get a good understanding of the speed.

Re:Metric, you know? (2)

war4peace (1628283) | about 9 months ago | (#44310231)

Human perceivable speeds are usually represented in km/h. Scientifically, most speeds are represented in m/s (save the extremes). Since this article is likely aiming to popularize the observation, it only makes sense to use km/h although this is a rather extreme speed. The reason is that the Average Joe could understand that it's "very very fast".

I salute this approach. Being too scientific for the sake of science is turning lots of interested people away.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 9 months ago | (#44310659)

Being too scientific for the sake of science is turning lots of interested people away.

Alan Alda (yes, Hawkeye Pierce) has said almost the exact same thing in this article [nytimes.com]. Essentially, he wants the science folks to be more clear when describing something without the technical terms.

This does not mean dumb down the science, just explain more clearly what is taking place.

Re:Metric, you know? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#44310751)

This does not mean dumb down the science, just explain more clearly what is taking place.

This is a valuable lesson for us in tech as well .. my mother in law was recently surprised I could explain something to somebody without using a single technical term and waving away the boring details.

I had a prof in university who said if you can't explain it to someone who doesn't have a solid background in it, you don't understand it yourself.

Being able to describe at least the overall gist of something to a non-technical person is a very missing skill for a lot of people. I once had a PM laugh that I could describe something complicated using only monkeys and bananas as the metaphor -- but everyone in the room followed what I was saying, and could subsequently cite my metaphor to ask questions. (Obviously, it isn't perfect, but it can be very helpful)

Some people just can't (or won't) try to simplify what they're saying without dumbing it down so far as to not convey any information.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 9 months ago | (#44310857)

Ditto. Like you, I can explain most technical ideas to non-technical people (*cough* parents *cough*) using examples or analogies and they grasp the basics.

As to your PM, for as much as I would like to get into project management, the more I see the folks in the industry the less it becomes viable. They appear to be more interested in following PMBOC and tossing around terms than getting results.

"The project failed, but here are all the timelines, statements of work and change requests!"

Re:Metric, you know? (3, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#44311095)

As to your PM, for as much as I would like to get into project management, the more I see the folks in the industry the less it becomes viable.

Like anything, it depends entirely on the PM -- I worked on a project the other year that had 3 PMs (out of necessity due to the scale of it).

The lead PM had a very clear path to how we were going to do it, and what had to happen first ... he's the best PM I've ever worked with. He was hard-assed, and demanded a lot. There was a damned good reason for all of it, his timelines were as reasonable as they could be, and he ran with all of the administrivia to ground to make sure it got done so when we finished one set of tasks everything we needed to start the next was already in place. I've respected only a handful of PMs, and he was head and shoulders above the rest.

One of the PMs was utterly useless and everything assigned to her she tried to foist off on me -- and I had to keep telling her the reason she was doing the 'boring' tasks of getting approvals was so we could focus on actually building it.

We got a massive undertaking done on-time, and with great success.

So, if you have a PM who has been in the industry a while and isn't going to get bamboozled by someone, understands you need to have a good clear plan for what you're doing, and can keep everyone on track -- a good PM can be the difference between the success or failure of a large project.

And, a PM who hasn't got enough domain expertise to follow the plot, isn't focused on every detail and staying on top of them ... then, yeah, some of those can be complete wankers who don't help anything get done.

There are PMs out there who are are really good, have enough domain expertise to understand what you're saying (and know when they need to ask questions), and will focus on making it possible for you to do your part. Those ones are really valuable to have around.

If you can do that, you might find yourself very much in demand, because good, thorough PMs are hard to find.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

clarkn0va (807617) | about 9 months ago | (#44311023)

I once had a PM laugh that I could describe something complicated using only monkeys and bananas as the metaphor -- but everyone in the room followed what I was saying

Bananas and monkeys have long been the mainstay of those would entertain the Prime Minister.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

CODiNE (27417) | about 9 months ago | (#44311125)

I had a prof in university who said if you can't explain it to someone who doesn't have a solid background in it, you don't understand it yourself.

That's actually based on an old saying but I'm not certain exactly who originated it. Some say Einstein, other's say Feynman... perhaps Einstein actually said "It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid."

I can understand why your prof didn't source it.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#44311207)

I can understand why your prof didn't source it.

He may have done so, but it was 20 years ago and I was not fully aware of some of the stuff he was teaching me until I got out in the real world and realized he had taught it to me.

One of those profs who imparted a lot more knowledge than the direct classroom stuff, and to whom I have been eternally grateful as a result. He also taught me egoless programming and code reviews, but more because when we were working together that's how we worked than it was him saying "you should do this because it's a good idea". It was just how we worked, and I didn't think much of it at the time.

No matter who is the source of the notion, it's damned fine advice. The number of times I've had to explain something technical without having to use technical terms (until later in the conversation) I couldn't even begin to count. And I still meet people who have been in the industry as long (or longer) than I who utterly fail at communicating with non-technical people.

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44313439)

Feynman liked explaining things to barmaids :) Then again, he could explain anything to anyone.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44311167)

Km/h is a well understood speed measurement, but 10 million is so big that there is nothing to compare it to and so no one can understand it. On the other hand, if you say 3 000 km/s, than it's easy to picture what it means because people can understand what 3,000 km is and they can understand what a second is.

Saying 10 million km/h is just bad.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 9 months ago | (#44310157)

we can further simplify our phrase by simply stating "10 Gm/h".

To further simplify it I would suggest that you use the SI base unit for time. That means your 10 would become 2,777,777.7... m/s of course, I think we should consider significant figures here, and assuming only 2 significant figures then you end up with 2.8 Mm/s

Of course, given that in my normal day-to-day conversations I use m/s as the preferred metric of measuring speed, I'm quite comfortable using this as a comparative measurement. 'Why Jim, did you see how fast that car was going? It must have been doing at least 45 m/s in that 50 kph zone!' So always use base unit SI when discussing anything and it will be completely understandable to the reader of the article.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

plover (150551) | about 9 months ago | (#44310571)

Much as I'd like to, 50 years of understanding exactly how fast 60 MPH is means I have to pause and think about a little mental conversion when I see kph. However, when I saw this story, I didn't have to do that. 10,000,000 kph is so fast that I have no frame of reference where a converted figure would help me understand it any more than an unconverted figure.

It helped when you expressed it in terms of m/s, because I at least know the speed of light is about 300,000,000 m/s. Even so, it's still little more than a huge number. All I can really do is compare it to other huge numbers.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 9 months ago | (#44311275)

Much as I'd like to, 50 years of understanding exactly how fast 60 MPH is means I have to pause and think about a little mental conversion when I see kph

Right after I posted, I realized I should have included a 'sarcasm' tag. In my example, I made mention of someone doing 45m/s in a 50kph zone to show that even to an engineer like myself, velocities in terms of meters per second are never mentioned in 'real life'.

(That 45m/s is about 100 MPH, obviously much more than 50kph)

I'm the same as you though, I've tried switching all the gauges in my car and GPS to metric units to get me into the 'feel' of how far a kilometer is, but it's been about 6 months and so far hasn't taken.

Re:Metric, you know? (2)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about 9 months ago | (#44310183)

Although I agree some applause is warranted for the use of the metric system in the summary, and you are correct, I'm from a metric country and we don't use some SI units for whatever reason, maybe we should use them, but we don't. Deci (d), Deca (da) and hecto (h) as examples are often ignored, we typically just go from centimetres (0.01 m) to meters to killometers (1000 m). I think it's probably the same reason that a Furlong isn't used much in the English system. It exists and in some context does get used, but for the most part people will just say an eight of a mile. I mean why wouldn't you say Furlong? It's a fun word to say.

Re:Metric, you know? (4, Funny)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 9 months ago | (#44310191)

Even in the USA metric units are used in Physics and Astronomy.

While this may be gratifying to see if you are accessing this American website from abroad, and are used to having to do mental conversions, you really shouldn't get the idea in your head that folks here in America have finally decided to reorder their thinking to suit your conveinence.

I swear, give you Europeans an inch, and you'll take a mile. :-)

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

Dynedain (141758) | about 9 months ago | (#44311625)

I swear, give you Europeans an inch, and you'll take a mile. :-)

Well to be fair, they thought they were only taking a meter.

Re:Metric, you know? (1)

dkf (304284) | about 9 months ago | (#44311987)

I swear, give you Europeans an inch, and you'll take a mile. :-)

Well to be fair, they thought they were only taking a meter.

And they were really just looking for a close double-quote.

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44312167)

Even in the USA metric units are used in Physics and Astronomy.

And the military (generally speaking).

Re:Metric, you know? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310449)

Except we commonly measure speed in km/h. For most people without assburger syndrome, 1000 km/h is more familiar than 1 Mm/h.

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44311003)

You mean 278 m/s, not 1Mm/h.

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310629)

I would prefer furlongs per fortnight.

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310781)

Now let's convert that into something that makes sense.
10 Gm/h is about 0.00925 % c, in other words one thousandth the speed of light!
Bottle that for a rocket!

Re:Metric, you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44311101)

I, too, hate things like X million kilometers, 1 thousand kilograms... ug. The prefixes are there, use them. (Gigameters, Megagrams)

Taco Bell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44309929)

lameness filter

INSERT PRISON SHOWER JOKE HERE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310003)

Because it belongs here !!

Ripped Apart? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44310807)

Can you legitimately use the phrase "ripped appart" to describe anything that happens to a cloud of gas?

Re:Ripped Apart? (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | about 9 months ago | (#44310923)

Can you legitimately use the phrase "ripped appart" to describe anything that happens to a cloud of gas?

Yeah, sounds really powerful dosen't it? Almost as strong as, say, a light breeze.

Not thinking astronomy (0)

Sez Zero (586611) | about 9 months ago | (#44310811)

When I read the summary about a black hole ripping a cloud of gas, I admit to not first thinking about astronomy.

Damn you, chickory root [pleasegodno.com]!

Not as interesting as it first appeared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44312069)

I originally read this as "Very Large Telescope Being Ripped Apart By Black Hole".

Going back? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44315237)

Uh, why is the gas cloud coming back from the black hole?
I though black holes have a point of no return...

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44320945)

I can do a video like this, here, at home.

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