Credit: Daniel Birchall, Subaru Telescope
Pinpointing a Monster Black Hole
A monster black hole lurks at the very center of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. This black hole is identified by its radio emission as a bright, compact source in the constellation of Sagittarius, and is known as Sgr A*. We can see stars dance around it, held in thrall by the spacetime distortions produced by the mass of the black hole, about 4 million times the mass of our own Sun. However, unlike other such monsters in other external galaxies, Sgr A* is rather dormant, at least when observed at the present time from earth. But as the nearest example of a supermassive black hole, it's an object of intense scrutiny to astronomers. This past July and August, astronomers joined together in a large, international effort to study Sgr A* over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The image above shows one component of this campaign, observations of Sgr A* with the 10 meter Keck telescopes, using a laser-produced artificial guide star to allow Keck to correct for blurring by the atmosphere. A key component of this campaign was NASA's newest space observatory, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR. NuSTAR provides the astronomers with the unique capability to directly image Sgr A* at very high X-ray energies, to probe more sensitively than ever before the sources of high-energy radiation in the space around the supermassive black hole.
Published: September 10, 2012
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Wednesday, 19-Mar-2014 20:53:24 EDT