“An Illusion?”–ESO Image of Milky Way’s Super-massive Black Hole


Is it real or a mirage? This image from the ESO’s ALMA Observatory shows the area surrounding Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole that lurks at the center of the Milky Way — highlighted here with a small circle. New research has revealed exciting evidence of interstellar gas and dust orbiting the black hole at high speeds.

The molecular-hydrogen-rich gas clouds which have been identified are known as molecular cloudlets, and they have never before been unambiguously detected. This image actually shows the distribution of molecules including carbon monoxide, the cloudlets’ second most abundant molecular component.

The cloudlets lie 26 000 light-years away from us, orbiting fast and relatively close to the black hole, at a distance of about one light year. ALMA’s high resolution allowed scientists to detect the cloudlets, which are the products of pre-existing massive clouds rotating around the center of our galaxy. These clouds were tidally disrupted into dense fragments and a lower density, short-lived component. The latter was identified thanks to the signs left by the passage of the synchrotron radiation emitted by Sagittarius A* through diffuse gas between the cloudlets.

Although clouds of molecular gas have the potential to form new stars, these cloudlets are unlikely to create stellar newborns. They have a comparatively small mass of around 60 times that of the Sun, and exist close to the huge, turbulent, punishing gravitational forces exerted by Sagittarius A*.

While the stars orbiting Sagittarius A* have been systematically observed, these dense molecular cloudlets have not been detected so close to the center of our galaxy before.

Last week, we reported that physicist George Chapline thinks that Sagittarius A* is more than quiet: Chapline predicts that we’ll find that it does not exist.

This December, at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Chapline, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, expects to have his prediction that black holes don’t exist tested with the release of findings by the Event Horizon Telescope—really a virtual telescope with an effective diameter of the Earth—that has been pointing at the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole for the last several years.

Most of the astrophysics community, reports Jesse Stone at Nautil.us, expect that images of Sagittarius A* taken from telescopes all over the Earth, will show the telltale signs of a black hole: a bright swirl of light, produced by a disc of gases trapped in the black hole’s orbit, surrounding a black shadow at the center—the event horizon. This encloses the region of space where the black-hole singularity’s gravitational pull is too strong for light to escape.

But Chapline doesn’t expect to see a black hole. He doesn’t believe they’re real. In 2005, he told Nature that “it’s a near certainty that black holes don’t exist” and—building on previous work he’d done with physics Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin—introduced an alternative model that he dubbed “dark energy stars.”

Read more about Chapline’s prediction here…

The Daily Galaxy via ESO, the European Southern Observatory, DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Nautil.us

Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/ J. R. Goicoechea (Instituto de Física Fundamental, CSIC, Spain)

Top 10 Most-Viewed Headlines of 2018 (Click and View)

The European Southern Observatories in Chile.

“Spying on Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures” –Scientists Pursue Undiscovered Species of Whales Swimming Below Since the Eocene 

Ancient Stars 6-9 Billion Years Old in Milky Way’s Halo –“May Harbor Advanced Civilizations”

Artificial Intelligence Is Already Out There, and It’s Billions of Years Old” (WATCH Video)

Ghost Signals’ of Extraterrestrial Civilizations Haunt the Milky Way –Suggests the New Drake Equation (WATCH Video)

“Odds That There has Never Been Another Civilization in the Universe One in Ten Billion Trillion” –A Joe Rogan Interview

“The Mystery of Where Extraterrestrial Life is Hiding Deepens”

“We’re Entering Uncharted Territory” –The Exoplanet Revolution May Reveal that Rise of Civilizations May Not be Unusual

“The Big Rip” –When Matter and Spacetime are Gradually Torn Apart Through Expansion of the Universe

“Humans are the First to Arrive at the Interstellar Stage” –Physicist Answers the Fermi Paradox