What is happening just around the black hole in the center of the Milky Way? (Intermediate)

What is happening just around the black hole in Milky Way ? How do the stars behave around it ? How violent is the place around the black hole ? Are there millions of stars around it ? Is there more light around it ?

Although the existence of a black hole in the center of our galaxy was hypothesized for a long time, direct evidence wasn't found until an X-Ray source was discovered coming from behind the constellation Sagittarius, an object called Sagittarius A*. Since then, much more information has been collected about this supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

The area around the black hole is incredibly violent, with periodic flaring and sporadic explosions, and jets of particles travelling near the speed of light from the black hole's event horizon. These jets extend 1-2 light-years out from the black hole itself. Also, enormous lobes of gas heated to 20 million degrees Celsius extend tens of light-years out from the black hole. It is a very violent place indeed, but there is evidence that there is not a huge amount of matter in the immediate vicinity, so the black hole is taking in matter at a low rate. This means that there is less light coming from the vicinity of the black hole than from other black holes.

Here are some very interesting links about this black hole, describing recent X-Ray images and explaining how a single star is orbiting very close to the black hole.

About the Author

Cathy Jordan

Cathy got her Bachelors degree from Cornell in May 2003 and her Masters of Education in May 2005. She did research studying the wind patterns on Jupiter while at Cornell. She is now an 8th grade Earth Sciences teacher in Natick, MA.

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