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Very Large Telescope Observes Gas Cloud Being Ripped Apart By Black Hole 66

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the twirling-toward-oblivion dept.
An anonymous reader writes "New observations (PDF) from ESO's Very Large Telescope show for the first time a gas cloud being ripped apart by the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The cloud is now so stretched that its front part has passed the closest point and is traveling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling towards it."

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Very Large Telescope Observes Gas Cloud Being Ripped Apart By Black Hole

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  • by eyenot (102141)

    That black hole really ripped one.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    First off, congrats on using metric in the summary. This is a big deal and deserving of recognition.

    Now that we're all on board, let's "kick it up a notch" and explore some of the other SI prefixes. Since the k in km means thousand, the phrase "10 million km/h" is effectively the same as "10 million thousand m/h", or "10 billion m/h". Since SI has a prefix for billion, we can further simplify our phrase by simply stating "10 Gm/h".

    Wasn't that fun?

    • by sycodon (149926) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @01:28PM (#44309983)

      Metric aside, what scale is Very Large fall under?

      Will the next one be called Big Ass Telescope? Then, perhaps, Ginormous Telescope?

      I can't wait for the Fucking-A Telescope.

      • BFT1.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        After "Very Large" comes "Hella Big" and then "Freakin' Huge" followed by "My God, Look at that thing"

      • by Iniamyen (2440798)

        Metric aside, what scale is Very Large fall under?

        What's a very large fall?

      • Will the next one be called Big Ass Telescope? Then, perhaps, Ginormous Telescope?

        Don't make fun of them. The eggheads organized a creative naming contest and this was the fair winner.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        http://www.vlf.it/frequency/bands.html

        There is already a precedent

        Extremely Large Telescope
        Super Large Telescope
        Ultra Large Telescope
        Very Large Telescope
        Large Telescope
        Medium Telescope
        Small Telescope
        Very Small Telescope
        Ultra Small Telescope
        Super Small Telescope
        Extremely Small Telescope

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Also note that this is a logarithmic scale. An Extremely Large Telescope would be the size of Switzerland and be able to read the serial numbers off the Mars rovers.

      • Metric aside, what scale is Very Large fall under?

        Will the next one be called Big Ass Telescope? Then, perhaps, Ginormous Telescope?

        I can't wait for the Fucking-A Telescope.

        I can't wait for the Fucking-A Telescope.

        Too bad it will be dwarfed by the "Venti" telescope. And there will be an "Extra-Big-Ass" model preceding the Ginormous version.

      • by clarkn0va (807617)
        If we follow the VGA standard, and if I'm reading this graphic [wikipedia.org] correctly, it will either be the SVLT or the WVLT, depending on which aspect ratio they choose.
      • Reminds me of SCSI. I guess it is all relative.

        Just like a minicomputer, wasn't really all that "mini" but in comparison to normal room sized computers they were.

        Just like the Microcomputer, isn't all that micro considering things like ultrabooks, or ITX, or even things like tablets or phones.

        Heck I have seen some "portable" computers that were more like a full ATX case, with a handle and a low resolution 6" screen tacked on the end with a full sized keyboard attacked. "Luggable" maybe.

        I would deduce that c

    • km/h is a rather well personally understood speed. So 10 million km/h gives us a better understand of the speed than 10 Gm/h only because we will need to convert back to km/h to get a good understanding of the speed.

      • Human perceivable speeds are usually represented in km/h. Scientifically, most speeds are represented in m/s (save the extremes). Since this article is likely aiming to popularize the observation, it only makes sense to use km/h although this is a rather extreme speed. The reason is that the Average Joe could understand that it's "very very fast".

        I salute this approach. Being too scientific for the sake of science is turning lots of interested people away.

        • Being too scientific for the sake of science is turning lots of interested people away.

          Alan Alda (yes, Hawkeye Pierce) has said almost the exact same thing in this article [nytimes.com]. Essentially, he wants the science folks to be more clear when describing something without the technical terms.

          This does not mean dumb down the science, just explain more clearly what is taking place.
          • by gstoddart (321705)

            This does not mean dumb down the science, just explain more clearly what is taking place.

            This is a valuable lesson for us in tech as well .. my mother in law was recently surprised I could explain something to somebody without using a single technical term and waving away the boring details.

            I had a prof in university who said if you can't explain it to someone who doesn't have a solid background in it, you don't understand it yourself.

            Being able to describe at least the overall gist of something to a non-te

            • Ditto. Like you, I can explain most technical ideas to non-technical people (*cough* parents *cough*) using examples or analogies and they grasp the basics.

              As to your PM, for as much as I would like to get into project management, the more I see the folks in the industry the less it becomes viable. They appear to be more interested in following PMBOC and tossing around terms than getting results.

              "The project failed, but here are all the timelines, statements of work and change requests!"

              • Re:Metric, you know? (Score:4, Informative)

                by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @03:36PM (#44311095) Homepage

                As to your PM, for as much as I would like to get into project management, the more I see the folks in the industry the less it becomes viable.

                Like anything, it depends entirely on the PM -- I worked on a project the other year that had 3 PMs (out of necessity due to the scale of it).

                The lead PM had a very clear path to how we were going to do it, and what had to happen first ... he's the best PM I've ever worked with. He was hard-assed, and demanded a lot. There was a damned good reason for all of it, his timelines were as reasonable as they could be, and he ran with all of the administrivia to ground to make sure it got done so when we finished one set of tasks everything we needed to start the next was already in place. I've respected only a handful of PMs, and he was head and shoulders above the rest.

                One of the PMs was utterly useless and everything assigned to her she tried to foist off on me -- and I had to keep telling her the reason she was doing the 'boring' tasks of getting approvals was so we could focus on actually building it.

                We got a massive undertaking done on-time, and with great success.

                So, if you have a PM who has been in the industry a while and isn't going to get bamboozled by someone, understands you need to have a good clear plan for what you're doing, and can keep everyone on track -- a good PM can be the difference between the success or failure of a large project.

                And, a PM who hasn't got enough domain expertise to follow the plot, isn't focused on every detail and staying on top of them ... then, yeah, some of those can be complete wankers who don't help anything get done.

                There are PMs out there who are are really good, have enough domain expertise to understand what you're saying (and know when they need to ask questions), and will focus on making it possible for you to do your part. Those ones are really valuable to have around.

                If you can do that, you might find yourself very much in demand, because good, thorough PMs are hard to find.

            • by clarkn0va (807617)

              I once had a PM laugh that I could describe something complicated using only monkeys and bananas as the metaphor -- but everyone in the room followed what I was saying

              Bananas and monkeys have long been the mainstay of those would entertain the Prime Minister.

            • by CODiNE (27417)

              I had a prof in university who said if you can't explain it to someone who doesn't have a solid background in it, you don't understand it yourself.

              That's actually based on an old saying but I'm not certain exactly who originated it. Some say Einstein, other's say Feynman... perhaps Einstein actually said "It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid."

              I can understand why your prof didn't source it.

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                I can understand why your prof didn't source it.

                He may have done so, but it was 20 years ago and I was not fully aware of some of the stuff he was teaching me until I got out in the real world and realized he had taught it to me.

                One of those profs who imparted a lot more knowledge than the direct classroom stuff, and to whom I have been eternally grateful as a result. He also taught me egoless programming and code reviews, but more because when we were working together that's how we worked than it was him

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Km/h is a well understood speed measurement, but 10 million is so big that there is nothing to compare it to and so no one can understand it. On the other hand, if you say 3 000 km/s, than it's easy to picture what it means because people can understand what 3,000 km is and they can understand what a second is.

        Saying 10 million km/h is just bad.

    • we can further simplify our phrase by simply stating "10 Gm/h".

      To further simplify it I would suggest that you use the SI base unit for time. That means your 10 would become 2,777,777.7... m/s of course, I think we should consider significant figures here, and assuming only 2 significant figures then you end up with 2.8 Mm/s

      Of course, given that in my normal day-to-day conversations I use m/s as the preferred metric of measuring speed, I'm quite comfortable using this as a comparative measurement. 'Why Jim, did you see how fast that car was going? It must have bee

      • by plover (150551)

        Much as I'd like to, 50 years of understanding exactly how fast 60 MPH is means I have to pause and think about a little mental conversion when I see kph. However, when I saw this story, I didn't have to do that. 10,000,000 kph is so fast that I have no frame of reference where a converted figure would help me understand it any more than an unconverted figure.

        It helped when you expressed it in terms of m/s, because I at least know the speed of light is about 300,000,000 m/s. Even so, it's still little more

        • Much as I'd like to, 50 years of understanding exactly how fast 60 MPH is means I have to pause and think about a little mental conversion when I see kph

          Right after I posted, I realized I should have included a 'sarcasm' tag. In my example, I made mention of someone doing 45m/s in a 50kph zone to show that even to an engineer like myself, velocities in terms of meters per second are never mentioned in 'real life'.

          (That 45m/s is about 100 MPH, obviously much more than 50kph)

          I'm the same as you though, I've tried switching all the gauges in my car and GPS to metric units to get me into the 'feel' of how far a kilometer is, but it's been about 6 months and so

    • Although I agree some applause is warranted for the use of the metric system in the summary, and you are correct, I'm from a metric country and we don't use some SI units for whatever reason, maybe we should use them, but we don't. Deci (d), Deca (da) and hecto (h) as examples are often ignored, we typically just go from centimetres (0.01 m) to meters to killometers (1000 m). I think it's probably the same reason that a Furlong isn't used much in the English system. It exists and in some context does get us
    • by T.E.D. (34228) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @01:50PM (#44310191)

      Even in the USA metric units are used in Physics and Astronomy.

      While this may be gratifying to see if you are accessing this American website from abroad, and are used to having to do mental conversions, you really shouldn't get the idea in your head that folks here in America have finally decided to reorder their thinking to suit your conveinence.

      I swear, give you Europeans an inch, and you'll take a mile. :-)

      • by Dynedain (141758)

        I swear, give you Europeans an inch, and you'll take a mile. :-)

        Well to be fair, they thought they were only taking a meter.

        • by dkf (304284)

          I swear, give you Europeans an inch, and you'll take a mile. :-)

          Well to be fair, they thought they were only taking a meter.

          And they were really just looking for a close double-quote.

    • by MetalOne (564360)
      Almost 1% the speed of light
    • by gomiam (587421)
      A billion is a million million for everyone but a few misguided individuals ;-)
  • Other Resources (Score:4, Informative)

    by tist (1086039) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @01:42PM (#44310117)
    Dr. Gillessen's web page has additional information here - https://wiki.mpe.mpg.de/gascloud/FrontPage [mpe.mpg.de] and the ESO website has an article as well thatexplains what is happening - http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1332/ [eso.org]
    JJW
  • Mmmm, VLT...
  • When I read the summary about a black hole ripping a cloud of gas, I admit to not first thinking about astronomy.

    Damn you, chickory root [pleasegodno.com]!
  • By any chance, would this be anywhere near Uranus?

  • I never knew that one needs much power to rip a gas cloud apart. Must be strong gas.

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