The center of our galactic home
May 12, 2022 7:27 AM   Subscribe

The "earth-size" Event Horizon Telescope has captured a second image of a black hole and this time it's the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Sure, it looks a little blurry, but that's probably for the best, considering what a black hole sounds like.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (34 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it Vantablack?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:29 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


The size of the Sgr A* shadow is approximately equivalent to someone on Earth taking a photo of a donut on the Moon, leading to this magnificent visualization. (CW: zoom)
posted by zamboni at 7:33 AM on May 12 [18 favorites]


The first thing I thought was... Gee, that looks just like the album cover for Superunknown. Whoa.... Black Hole Sun, dude....
posted by cake vandal at 7:38 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


That's a fun zoom, zamboni. Here's another one from 2019 comparing the pic of M87's black hole with one pixel in Hubble's WFC3 camera: Dr. Alex Parker on Twitter
posted by indexy at 7:57 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


Where we're going we won't need e̶y̶e̶s spacetime tomography to see.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:02 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I love how Feryal Özel, one of the members of the EHT team, refers to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy as a "gentle giant"
posted by gwint at 8:05 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


The numbers, the scales and forces involved here are all just completely beyond my comprehension.

We are so small.
posted by mhoye at 8:26 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]


Where we're going we won't need e̶y̶e̶s spacetime tomography to see

This is pretty tangential / coincidental, but it's funny to me how similar this is to one of the earliest speculations about alien life: in An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions (published in 1727; critical edition), Daniel Defoe suggested that aliens from Saturn wouldn't need eyes or else "be a Kind so illuminated from their internal Heat and Light, that they can see sufficiently by their own Beams."
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:31 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]




For a story about visiting this center of our galaxy, see Larry Niven's At The Core.
posted by Rash at 8:46 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


"Outside the ordered universe is that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes." ---HPL ,The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
posted by SPrintF at 8:49 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]


I work in the same department as Feryal, and she's totally right, gwint, our black hole is relatively quiet as compared to the black holes that are actively eating. Sag A* has one of the smaller masses of the supermassive black holes we know about. We just happen to live relatively nearby, so we have the ability to discern its presence in ways that are more difficult for farther galaxies. I study AGN, or active galactic nuclei, supermassive black holes that are swallowing material and as the material falls onto the black hole it glows incredibly bright. For the brightest of these AGNs, "quasars," they are capable of shining with a light that outshines the entire rest of the galaxy, which is absurd considering their size. One single black hole swallowing material outshining a hundred billion stars.

So, Sag A*, by comparison, which hardly glows except a little burp here and there, is a gentle giant indeed.
posted by RubixsQube at 9:04 AM on May 12 [23 favorites]


Space Goatse.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:49 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Brandon, I would like to acknowledge your restraint in linking to the actual sound of a black hole, and not Rick Astley.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:36 AM on May 12 [14 favorites]


Especially since a black hole is definitely never gonna give you up.
posted by biogeo at 11:56 AM on May 12 [34 favorites]


I dunno what this reveals about me or the universe but to me it looks like a 3D ultrasound of a cervix.
posted by wabbittwax at 12:27 PM on May 12


Somehow I thought the sound link would go to the chirp. It's good that it doesn't, because the chirp is different in several ways:

1) The chirp is the sound of collision between two black holes.
2) The chirp isn't pitch-shifted (The black holes in that collision are c. 50 solar masses, while the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is c. 4 million solar masses. Totally different scale; to get the supermassive sounds in human hearing range they are pitch shifted, whereas the LIGO-detected black hole collisions involve frequencies already close to human hearing range.).
3) The "sound" itself is a different kind of signal. For the supermassive black holes, the "sound" is motion of particles in a gas just like sounds you hear with your ears (it's just interstellar gas and not atmosphere). But for the black hole collisions LIGO detects, the "sound" in the chirp is actually the warping of the shape of spacetime itself.

I do like the chirp though. Chirp, this black hole just ate that black hole. Chirp.
posted by nat at 12:30 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


It looks like they blurred out the teeth to avoid panic.
posted by adept256 at 1:24 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]




If you like exotic, energetic objects in the universe, check out SS433.
posted by neuron at 2:36 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


To be fair "what a black hole sounds like" is really silence - that NASA link is really more "what an accretion disk sounds like if you are Aphex Twin"
posted by mbo at 3:02 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


The black hole at the center of the Milky Way may be gentle right now, but given its likely connection to the Fermi Bubbles it probably isn't always so quiet...
posted by janewman at 3:25 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I need to get that Black Hole audio track on vinyl. It's heavy.
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:35 PM on May 12


It's like, how much more black could it be? And the answer is None. None more black.
posted by biogeo at 3:45 PM on May 12 [9 favorites]


Well played biogeo, well played.

I once used Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Whiskey Rock-a-Rolla" to answer AskMe questions about Memphis & Mississippi songs, songs about drinking whisky, and songs about occupations.

posted by kirkaracha at 4:50 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


It's especially intriguing to me that they say this picture indicates that SagA* is tilted towards us and that we're not seeing it edge on. I just always assumed the equator of the central black hole would be lined up with the disc of the galaxy more or less. This makes me wonder about where its jets would be pointed were it to get a large inflow.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 5:22 PM on May 12


(In case someone ever tries to build a model of Metafilter comments that link to other other comments and tries to implement it with a directed acyclic graph: Hi there! Sorry I broke your code!)
posted by biogeo at 5:24 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


"Is it Vantablack?"

By looking at this black hole, you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated with Anish Kapoor, you are not viewing this black hole on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this black hole picture will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


....a gentle giant indeed.

Will it still be gentle after it finishes dining on our galaxy?
posted by mule98J at 9:36 PM on May 12


Isn’t that crazy to think about?

Our black hole will likely devour our galaxy. Given our location, likely after the Sun destroys our planet, but whatever…

Doesn’t make it any less crazy. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we started to be sucked into our black hole…

The Universe is something
posted by Windopaene at 9:47 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


The black hole at the center of the Milky Way may be gentle right now, but given its likely connection to the Fermi Bubbles it probably isn't always so quiet...

When I first saw an image of the Fermi bubbles (on a 2018 APOD page), I was amazed at their resemblance to a particular atomic electron orbital, the 3dz2 orbital to be precise, and I found that other people had noticed it as well.

When I looked up pictures of the orbital, the resemblance wasn’t as exact as I’d remembered, but it still seems possible to me that the Fermi bubbles sit inside a biconical volume defined by precession of the SagA* jets, which would offer an estimate of how SagA* might be tilted with respect to the plane of the galaxy.
posted by jamjam at 9:54 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


It's especially intriguing to me that they say this picture indicates that SagA* is tilted towards us and that we're not seeing it edge on. I just always assumed the equator of the central black hole would be lined up with the disc of the galaxy more or less.

Yeah, I thought the same thing. We would STILL be more likely to see it more edge-on even though its disc is not aligned with the galaxy. But we (appear to) have the view perpendicular to the plane of the disc.

Seems like an extraordinarily lucky break for us.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:43 AM on May 13


Obligatory Dr. Becky: The new BLACK HOLE image explained by an ASTROPHYSICIST | Your questions answered - YouTube. I so knew this would be why she was a day late on her video. Black Holes are her thing!
posted by zengargoyle at 6:40 PM on May 13


Our black hole will likely devour our galaxy.

nah, the gravity isnt nearly strong enough to make billions of star orbits fall into the black hole, not by many many many orders of magnitude. the stars that dont blow will just cool to white and then black dwarfs, and then proton decay will occur and black holes will evaporate and there will be no things.
posted by wibari at 9:40 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


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