Milky Way's Heart Should Soon See an Appetizer
At the heart of every galaxy, it is believed a supermassive black hole resides. The one at the center of our own Milky Way is called Sagittarius A* and, unlike many other galactic cores we see, it is dormant. This means no gas or dust is falling into it or producing a large jet of high-velocity matter, but according to researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, that may be changing soon.
First detected in 2002, though no details were known until this year, G2 is a cloud of gas and dust, and its orbit around the Sgr A* is likely going to lead to its quite visible destruction within the decade. The cloud, which may have been shed from a star or is a failed attempt at planet formation, is going to endure such gravitational force that it will be torn apart, with some of its mass falling into the black hole, but most of it will likely settle into an accretion disk around it. As it is shredded though, the friction within the cloud should heat it to the point of emitting brilliant X-rays that we will be able to see with our observatories.
According to the model the researchers have been working with, this entire process of the black hole feeding on the gas cloud could take almost a decade to complete. For that duration, scientists across the world will be eagerly awaiting any and all observations of it, to grow our understanding of our galaxy, and our galactic neighbors.