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Space Science

Black Hole At Center of Milky Way Confirmed 392

Smivs writes "The BBC are reporting that a German team has confirmed the existence of a Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way. Astronomers tracked the movement of 28 stars circling the center of the Milky Way, using the 3.5m New Technology Telescope and the 8.2m Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. Both are operated by the European Southern Observatory (Eso). The black hole is four million times heavier than our Sun, according to the paper in The Astrophysical Journal. According to Dr Robert Massey, of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the results suggest that galaxies form around giant black holes in the way that a pearl forms around grit."
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Black Hole At Center of Milky Way Confirmed

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  • by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <ag-slashdot@eDALIxit0.us minus painter> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:01AM (#26059325) Homepage
    ...dark matter makes a black perl?
    • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:37AM (#26059825)
      I guess that the black hole formed a long time ago around some hot grits, way back when that was funny.
      • "Shut up dingy."
        "Kiss my grits!"

        (Now we'll find it how old the slashdot readers are.) I'd like to know where this blackhole came from? Was there a previous iteration of stars that predates the Milky Way, and this black hole used to be a star? Was that star part of another galaxy? Where is that galaxy now?

        Ya know all of this would be so easy if someone invented a chronoscope to view past time periods (reference Isaac Asimov's "The Dead Past"). Then instead of guessing what happened 10 billion years ago,

        • Re:I guess that... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Thiez ( 1281866 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @12:26PM (#26061573)

          > Ya know all of this would be so easy if someone invented a chronoscope to view past time periods (reference Isaac Asimov's "The Dead Past"). Then instead of guessing what happened 10 billion years ago, we could just look and see with our own eyes.

          We have such a thing, but we call it a 'telescope' instead of a chronoscope. Want to know what happened 10 billion years ago? Just look at something 10 billion lightyears away (or at least, something that was 10 billion lightyears away 10 billion years ago).

          • Re:I guess that... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Kingrames ( 858416 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @02:04PM (#26063079)
            I don't doubt that someday we will find a way to travel at faster than light speed, and when we do, we'll be able to travel out to space, faster than light, then take a 90 degree turn, travel a bit longer, and point some telescopes at earth. (or in the direction of where it was). Then we will have at our disposal, a complete chronology of all human history under the sun.

            Those that do this, I'd call them Light-Scholars. Because it sounds cool.

            And it would be awesome to be there, when they do this.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by fifedrum ( 611338 )

              You will be there! You'll be the "they" when they do this, the ones they're looking at... if that makes any sense. So hold up a sign.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by zish ( 174783 )
      I knew it! Science is trying to Knack^h^h^h^h^hNacre us!
    • by Centurix ( 249778 ) <centurix@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:44AM (#26059899) Homepage

      I've seen Black Perl, it was ALL regular expressions. So many that there was a regular expression event horizon, with only preceding elements escaping and at the center was a nondeterministic finite automata. Quite a sight.

      • I've seen Black Perl, it was ALL regular expressions. So many that there was a regular expression event horizon, with only preceding elements escaping and at the center was a nondeterministic finite automata. Quite a sight.

        ... and here I thought it was a pirate ship [wikipedia.org].
    • by Ikcor ( 676683 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:06AM (#26060227)
      Most Milky Ways have a creamy nougat center.
      • Re:I guess that... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @12:58PM (#26062071) Homepage

        When viewed from Europe and Australia, the Milky Way has only nougat at the center. When viewed from the US, it has nougat and caramel. Discuss.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          That's because what American's call Milky Ways are much more similar to what we in Australia and Europe call Mars Bars. Also note that the nougat in the middle of European Milky Ways (at least those I've tried in Norway) is different from that found in Australian Milky Ways. The Australian nougat is brown and chocolaty, European nougat is a lighter creamier colour and tastes more like Vanilla.

    • Depends. If it is in elongated form it will form a python
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:01AM (#26059327)

    Boy, that sucks.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:04AM (#26059359) Homepage

    n/t

  • About time! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:04AM (#26059361) Journal

    Seriously (surely no one missed the bad relativity joke in that title :-p) though, are black holes really still considered theoretical constructs? For example, Wikipedia starts with "A black hole is a theoretical region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that ...". And for Wikipedia haters, this is repeated in literature too.

    Meanwhile, in this article -- "the best empirical evidence that super-massive black holes do exist". And besides, I thought many scientific articles bring up black holes now and then without questioning, anyway.

    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Informative)

      by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:12AM (#26059451)

      Yes, they are. We still have no proof of their actual existence.

    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pionzypher ( 886253 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:18AM (#26059525)
      I was more surprised that no one jumped on the statement: "four million times heavier than our sun".
    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by glaswegian ( 803339 ) * on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:29AM (#26059679)

      are black holes really still considered theoretical constructs? ... I thought many scientific articles bring up black holes now and then without questioning, anyway.

      Black holes do have a solid foundation in theory, and we can observe the gravitational effects they have on their neighbours. However, as far as I know, Hawking radiation [wikipedia.org] is the only way to detect them directly and I don't think that this has been observed.

      The authors of this article are showing observational evidence for a supermassive (millions of solar masses) black hole in the centre of our Galaxy - something that was thought to be at the centre of many galaxies but was still in open question. The observations made during this study have shown that our Galaxy has one, using techniques that are not an option for galaxies further away, thus giving us the best evidence that supermassive black holes exist.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drerwk ( 695572 )
        I suggest that gravitational waves might be a way other than Hawking radiation. And depending on what you mean by directly detect; if we get a nice image of something behind the black hole that would be good too. ASAIK the only issue remaining was could the mass be some exotic form of matter like quark soup. And I thought this had been resolved already, so I'm not sure what is supposed to be new in the report.
        • That may not even work. I'll admit, my knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics isn't exactly comprehensive, but I'd think a black hole would create a lensing effect. Essentially, we'd be seeing what's behind the hole. I suppose the distortion this would cause could be observable, however.
    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xelios ( 822510 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:36AM (#26059809)
      That's the nature of an unobservable object. All you can do is infer its existence through its effects on other objects, in this case through the gravitational effects on stars. But then all you've *proven* is that something is causing those effects. The simplest explanation is a black hole, but it could be something else, and that's why black holes are still considered theoretical.

      Dark matter is in the same boat. Same with dark energy and strings. Physics seems to be moving toward explanations involving unobservable objects, whether that's right or not remains to be seen. Question is, can it ever be seen? See?
      • Re:About time! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @12:32PM (#26061663)
        That's the nature of an unobservable object. All you can do is infer its existence through its effects on other objects, in this case through the gravitational effects on stars. But then all you've *proven* is that something is causing those effects. The simplest explanation is a black hole, but it could be something else, and that's why black holes are still considered theoretical.

        That's the nature of an unobservable object. All you can do is infer its existence through its effects on other objects, in this case through the reflective effects on sunlight. But then all you've *proven* is that something is causing those effects. The simplest explanation is the moon, but it could be something else, and that's why the moon is still considered theoretical.

      • Re:About time! (Score:5, Informative)

        by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @12:55PM (#26062033)

        That's the nature of an unobservable object.

        I wouldn't say a black hole is "unobservable". It emits no light, but has a measurable gravitational field. Conversely consider something like light, which has no mass but can be measured by its electromagnetic interaction (e.g. using a camera).

        Different subatomic particles interact in different ways. Four fundamental forces have been identified: electromagnetic, weak nuclear, strong nuclear, and gravitational. A particular particle may interact via 1 or more of these modes. Just because it is "invisible" with respect to a given force does not make it "unobservable": as long as it interacts via at least one force, it can be measured/observed using that force.

        All the examples you've given are of things that are observable: black holes and dark matter and dark energy are all observable via the gravitational effects they produce. Just because they are not observable via light doesn't make them unobservable. (Strictly black holes do emit low-levels of measurable radiation (Hawking radiation), and could also be detected in this way.) The "strings" of string theory (if they exist) should in principle be measurable by studying the interactions of particles via the four forces (whether or not we will ever achieve the energy scales required to do so is a separate question). For that matter it is difficult to "see" air, but it is easy to observe/measure it in other ways.

        You have falsely equated "interact strongly via the electromagnetic force" to "observable". It's a natural mistake for humans, since our visual sense is so well-developed. However just because it is invisible to our eyes does not make it an "unobservable object". A truly "unobservable object" would be one which doesn't interact via any force. Such an object isn't merely "unobservable", it is simply "nonexistent" by any physical definition (since it cannot interact with anything else in the universe).

    • Seriously (surely no one missed the bad relativity joke in that title :-p) though, are black holes really still considered theoretical constructs? For example, Wikipedia starts with "A black hole is a theoretical region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that ...". And for Wikipedia haters, this is repeated in literature too.

      Meanwhile, in this article -- "the best empirical evidence that super-massive black holes do exist". And besides, I thought many scientific articles bring up black holes now and then without questioning, anyway.

      Sure, they're still theoretical constructs in as much as the laws of gravity as we understand them are theoretical constructs.

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:09AM (#26059413) Homepage

    Come on folks its time to have fun with the arts students again. We are all going to die because as we know a black hole sucks everything into it and these guys have only just discovered it which means it must be new so it can only be a matter of days/weeks/months a year at most before our solar system is devoured by this giant black hole.

    Run for the hills, there is no escape.

    Ahhh arts students, the sort of people who fall for the "di-hydrogen monoxide is potentially lethal but the government are letting it into our water supplies".

  • ESO link (Score:4, Informative)

    by glaswegian ( 803339 ) * on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:09AM (#26059415)
    Here is the press release from ESO [eso.org]
  • by cjfs ( 1253208 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:11AM (#26059445) Homepage Journal

    ... that they have names (Antu, Kueyen, Melipal, Yepun) for the individual telescopes in the VLT, but could only come up with "very large telescope" for the whole array.

    Please include at least a transformers reference in the next one. Thanks.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:31AM (#26059709)
    ...or the remants of it, anyway.

    Someone at the center of our galaxy obviously beat us to getting their Large Hadron Collider [wikipedia.org] working before we did.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:33AM (#26059743) Journal
    galaxies form around giant black holes in the way that a pearl forms around grit

    Exactly. The pulsars emit gamma rays like the dung beetle emit pheromones. The planets circle their star like insects circle a dome light in the porch. Analogies form in the mind of submitters and editors of slashdot the same way driftwood washes up in the beaches of South Carolina.

  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:42AM (#26059881)

    So black holes are irritating to the Great Space Oyster which deposits stars, dust, and gas around it to prevent irritation?

    There's my nomination for worst science analogy this year.

  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:57AM (#26060085)
    Due to the huge time distortion of such a massive black hole, PBS NOVA aired a show on the same subject 3 months ago http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blackhole/ [pbs.org] Seems the German research got sucked back in time and used to show the orbits of the stars around the black hole.
  • by arkham6 ( 24514 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:59AM (#26060121)
    When i heard that there were black holes in other galaxies, i was fine with that, since they are so far away. But now i hear there is one in OUR galaxy? That's kinda scary, since its so close to us!
  • Real proof! (Score:2, Redundant)

    by db32 ( 862117 )
    Finally, we can all sleep soundly knowing that we are indeed circling the drain...
  • I wonder what the diameter of its event horizon is. TFA didn't say.
  • Slashdot editors are so out of it sometimes.
  • http://arxiv.org/abs/0810.4674 [arxiv.org]

    Amazing that a star they studied orbited the galactic center in only 16 years.

    The paper seems to assume the existence of black holes; it addresses their observations rather than any theoretical causes. Saying these observations confirm a black hole seems a bit of a stretch. It just confirms that stars are circling around the galactic center, which may or may not contain anything at all.

    • It just confirms that stars are circling around the galactic center, which may or may not contain anything at all

      I'm sure you didn't really mean to write that. The discovery that stars move in orbits where there is no central mass would be far more exciting and disruptive to physics than finding a black hole there.

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