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A Supermassive Appetite

A Supermassive Appetite

Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT/F. Baganoff, R. Shcherbakov et al.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chandra_image_of_Sgr_A.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

This false color image is of a supernova remnant that extends on either side of Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Sagittarius A* is thought to be the site of a supermassive black hole.

Amazing But True!

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Source: http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/what-is-a-black-hole-k4.html#.Uvwbh87y0sj
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The supermassive black hole is at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. This artist’s conception depicts what scientists think the galaxy looks like from above [Figure2]

  • Like most or all other spiral galaxies, our Milky Way Galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its center.
  • These black holes get energy from consuming solar system objects that they draw in with their massive gravitational pull.
  • The consumption of a large object is evidence in x-rays, not other wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

Show What You Know

With the link below, learn more about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why don’t astronomers see the supermassive black hole consuming objects with a powerful optical telescope?
  2. Why were telescopes that collect other wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation used to confirm the original observation?
  3. What happens to an object that is “eaten” by a supermassive black hole?
  4. What hypothesis have astronomers developed for why the supermassive black hole in the Milky Way doesn’t seem to consume many objects?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT/F. Baganoff, R. Shcherbakov et al.; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chandra_image_of_Sgr_A.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Source: http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/what-is-a-black-hole-k4.html#.Uvwbh87y0sj; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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