Black hole gets ready to eat gas cloud

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

black holes
When black holes gobble up mass, they are usually surrounded by a ring of light that gives away their location.

According to researchers, a gigantic gas cloud called G2 is heading straight for the center of the Milky Way on a collision course with a supermassive black hole – a region of space that eats everything, even light, with its intense gravity.

The entire event should occur in the next few months and will be captured by a NASA satellite. Besides offering a great show of epic space fireworks, it will also shed light on the mysterious black hole.

Since black holes swallow all light, there is nothing to illuminate the body and it appears as a dark region in space. These holes consume everything that crosses their path and are often hard to see. As they feed, however, they emit a ring of light around their edges, making them easier to spot.

The black hole in the center of the Milky Way – called the Sagittarius A* (Sag A*) – hasn’t been eating much. In fact, compared to other similarly sized black holes, the ring of light around Sag A* is about 4,000 times dimmer than it’s supposed to be.

Now that the gas cloud is approaching, researchers are eager to see what will happen when Sag A* gets a mega meal after being starved for so long. The black hole may begin to glow brightly once it starts eating the cloud, but researchers are very skeptical this will happen. Sadly, researchers believe there is a tiny star hiding inside the cloud which might make it harder for the black hole to eat the gas.

Images courtesy of NASA.