Oooh, it glows so prettily!


There it is: the black hole at the center of our galaxy, named Sagittarius A*. Hi there, big fella! You’re very pretty, please don’t swallow us up!

It was quite an achievement, but weirdly, so many of the articles about it try to downplay it. OK, there are bigger black holes out there.

The M87 black hole is far more distant and massive than Sagittarius A*, situated about 54 million light-years from Earth with a mass 6.5 billion times that of our sun. In disclosing the photo of that black hole, the researchers said that their work showed that Albert Einstein, the famed theoretical physicist, had correctly predicted that the shape of the shadow would be almost a perfect circle.

Yeah, yeah, we know. M87 is impressive, but the mass of four million suns, like Sagittarius A* possesses, is nothing to sneeze at. Also extraordinary and impressive.

The worst comes from an astronomer talking to the Washington Post.

Feryal Ozel, a University of Arizona astronomer, described the achievement as “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy.”

WTF? Our black hole is not gentle at all — it’s a snarling, spitting, shrieking maelstrom of lethal radiation and deadly cosmic forces. I will not tolerate this diminution of our all-engulfing pit of chaotic darkness.

Comments

  1. PaulBC says

    I used to see donuts exactly like that as a kid when I would close my eyes and apply pressure with my fists (I was a weird kid). It was pretty cool, but I had no idea that I was actually traveling to the center of the galaxy in my head! Maybe I can start a new pseudoscience/cult based on this similarity.

  2. Walter Solomon says

    The nursery of Galactus the Devourer of Worlds is anything but gentle.

  3. PaulBC says

    Fortunately, conservation of energy and momentum keep us well out of harm’s way. I am also not overly worried about falling onto the sun or having the moon drop out of the sky.

  4. wzrd1 says

    Scientists were predicting that the star (now believed to be a merged binary star) G2 was going to get eaten by Sag A*. Didn’t happen, the gentle giant grabbed for it, but it was just out of range and got gas spread out instead, which is now slowly moving back to G2.
    As gentle as a crocodile.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    The density of the galactic center is such that supernovae spray high-energy particles through the neighborhood all the time. Not a good place for planets with biospheres.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    One thing about the galactic center I would like to see:
    A map of the details of the center, and a separate image 30 minutes of arc across -the diameter of the full moon- with the square of the map inset at the same scale. That way it would be possible to get a feel for the structures hidden by nebulae when watching Sagittarius with the naked eye.

  7. Ridana says

    “Almost a perfect circle”? Looks roughly triangular to me, both the shape of the dark center and the 3 points of light. Sounds like they were really trying hard to give a shout-out to Einstein.

    Honestly, I would have expected a massive clump of gravity to be spherical, so his prediction doesn’t feel all that impressive to me, though that’s just my ignorant self talking. And I still assume the triangular appearance is an artifact of the image creation process, and not how it would appear if you could be out there seeing it with nothing in the way.

  8. René says

    I read somewhere that you need eyes larger than Earth (and eyes susceptible to radiowaves) to see Sagittarius A* with a naked eye, due to the LARGE radio waves, compared to short-wavelength VISIBLE light.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    Ridana @8:

    I would have expected a massive clump of gravity to be spherical,

    What you’re seeing is not the shape of the black hole; it’s the emission of em radiation from the accretion disk orbiting the black hole.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    René @9:

    That massive clump is a single point.

    In a rotating black hole, the gravitational singularity is actually a ring.

  11. René says

    Ta!, Rob. One never ceases to learn in an environment such as among PZ’s Pharyngulites. (I have some study ahead.)

  12. birgerjohansson says

    This reminds me of Gregory Benford’s novel Eater.
    Fortunately, Sagittarius A* is not ambulatory.

  13. says

    “WTF? Our black hole is not gentle at all — it’s a snarling, spitting, shrieking maelstrom of lethal radiation and deadly cosmic forces. I will not tolerate this diminution of our all-engulfing pit of chaotic darkness.”
    It pales into insignificance compared to the psychopathic Rethuglican Party.

    Share this:

  14. mcfrank0 says

    The only reason our black hole is gentle is that it has gobbled up all the local supply of food.

  15. blf says

    Sagittarius A* is not ambulatory.

    It’s supposed to be — asserts the mildly deranged penguin — but hasn’t been responding to the remote control for aeons now. She suspects the batteries (at Sagittarius A*, not in the remote) have failed. After considering for a moment, I decide it’s perhaps safer to not ask how signals from the remote arrive sufficiently undistorted to be useful, and how any signal back from Sagittarius A* arrives at all.

  16. macallan says

    I will not tolerate this diminution of our all-engulfing pit of chaotic darkness.

    Azathoth’s minions will deal with him when the stars are right.

  17. PaulBC says

    I’ve held back, but I really hate the world “prettily” and yes I know how adverbs and adjectives work. It still just sounds stilted.

  18. seachange says

    Black hole sun
    Won’t you come
    and wash away the rain?
    Black hole sun
    Won’t you come
    Won’t you come

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    StevoR @24: I liked the reference to ‘Lanky hotpot‘ in the bloopers.

    A quibble: Dr Becky seems to be saying that the shadow we see defines the extent of the event horizon (radius Rs). It actually defines the extent of the photon ring, which has a radius about 2.6 Rs. The photons coming from the edge of the shadow actually start out closer to the BH, at the edge of the photon sphere (see also accompanying picture of M87), at 1.5 Rs, but they spiral out from there, only escaping at 2.6 Rs.

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