Monster at the Center of the Galaxy

Watch the video to learn about a giant black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Video Source: New Astronomy Technique Reveals Monster at the Center of the Milky Way | Science Channel | YouTube

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This is our galaxy - The Milky Way. Stripping away its stars, planets, rocks, and dust reveals a dark secret. Lurking in the shadows is a massive black hole (Sagittarius A star). 4,000,000 times the mass of our Sun and just 26,000 light years from Earth. Studying this titan offers us a chance to understand how black holes truly work.

On top Hawaii's tallest mountain Mauna Kea, scientists at the Keck Observatory do just that. Astronomer James Lyke studies Sagittarius A star.

It's so unique to have a black hole that massive that close to us because all the other ones that are that massive are so far away in other galaxies.

Getting to his office requires a 14,000-foot climb along a steep and winding dirt road.

I've loved telescopes for a long time. These are the biggest and the best. So, if you want to get the faintest objects in the universe, if you want to look at the finest detail, you have to come to Keck. It takes your breath away.

Today, James prepares Keck's 300-ton telescope to monitor Sagittarius A star.

The telescope's going to come very close, right behind me. It takes a dedicated crew of 20 guys to get this thing running every night of the year. It's a very complex machine.

The constant movement of the Earth's atmosphere bends light and makes stars twinkle. This distortion stops scientists from getting a clear view of the Milky Way, but the team at Keck has cracked this problem. As night falls, James shoots a bright laser 50 miles up into the atmoshpere.

We take pictures of the return from that laser, it gets fuzzed up by the atmosphere just the same way that a natural star does.

By altering the telescope's mirrors, James brings his beam of light into focus. This allows him to calibrate the telescope and obtain the sharpest images ever seen of objects in the Milky Way.

It's a revolution in astronomy. This is technology that was dreamed about for years. It's a bit of a game-changer. We now can see things that we never could see before.

James and his team are making startling discoveries that are changing our understanding of how black holes work. They have detected a mysterious object close to Sagittarius A star. It's called G2 - a cloud of interstellar gas which may contain a star. It's future is bleak. Scientists believe the black hole will slingshot part of the cloud into space and then gorge on the remains, growing even more massive and powerful.

What Do You Think?

  • What is special about the Keck observatory that allows it to be used to study Sagittarius A-Star?
  • What are scientists hoping to achieve by studying this black hole?
  • How does the telescope at the Keck observatory deal with the problem of our atmosphere bending light from objects in space?
  • According to the article, what have astronomers found next to the black hole? What do they believe will happen to it?