- micro, about the size of our Moon
- stellar, size of our Sun
- supermassive, up to 10 billion Suns
Thursday, October 31, 2013
SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLES
I am a Friend of the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at the University of Hawaii. There is something about space that challenges and awes. I actually worked for NASA a long time ago on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Chapter 4 of my second book entitled, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity, summarizes this subject.
A black hole was suggested as early as the 1700's, but was first so-called in 1967 by John Wheeler. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and various other luminaries in the field contributed ideas. The subject remains formative.
Last night I joined an almost filled Art Auditorium on the Manoa Campus to hear Nicholas McConnell, IfA Beatrice Watson Parrent Postdoctoral Fellow, lecture on "Monsters in the Dark: Supermassive Black Holes and Their Destructive Habits." Hey, it's almost Halloween.
Black holes are named:
A black hole can form when a star collapses. Once created, it can then swallow stars to expand. At the center of galaxies is probably a black hole. Did a black hole propagate a galaxy by pirating stars, or did the galaxy form first and then produce a black hole? Amazingly enough, this question remains open to debate. That is the Sombrero Galaxy to the left, and, while you can't see that elusive black hole, it turns out that the gases near the black hole (but not inside the event horizon, where anything then gets sucked in) reach super high temperatures, showing that glow.
We live in an average galaxy, the Milky Way, with perhaps 400 billion stars. Light...light, mind you, which travels at 186,000 miles per SECOND, takes 120,000 light years just to travel from one end of our galaxy to the other end. Homo sapiens, us, might have just about made a first appearance 100,000 years ago. Moving on, there could be 500 billion galaxies, and a really large one harbors 100 trillion stars. As I said, space is awesome.
Our black hole supposedly ate a gas cloud in June of this year. See a stylized version on video. However, called Sagittarius A, as large as 4 million suns, our black hole was a messy eater, as only 1% of the cloud was consumed.