Institute of Astronomy

Fatal fate - a gas cloud on its way towards Galactic Center black hole

Sackler Lecture 2013

Thursday 31st October 16:30

Raymond and Beverly Sackler Lecture Theatre

Dr Stefan Gillessen (MPE)


In 2011, we discovered a compact gas cloud (”G2”) with roughly 3 Earth
masses that is falling on a near-radial orbit toward the massive
black hole in the Galactic Center. The orbit is well constrained and
pericenter passage is predicted for early 2014. Our data beautifully
show that G2 gets tidally sheared apart due to the massive black
hole's force. During the next months, we expect that in addition to
the tidal effects, hydrodynamics get important, when G2 collides with
the hot ambient gas around Sgr A*. Simulations show that ultimately,
the cloud’s material will fall into the massive black hole.
Predictions for the accretion rate and luminosity evolution, however,
are very difficult due to the many unknowns. Nevertheless, this might be
a unique opportunity in the next years to observe how gas feeds a
massive black hole in a galactic nucleus.

Page last updated: 8 October 2013 at 08:31