Picture of the Day: The Supermassive Black Hole That's Eating Asteroids in Our Galaxy

More

621895main_sgra_665.jpg

The above images shows Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope and Chile have both detected X-ray flares coming from Sgr A* (as it is called) and scientists didn't know why. But a new theory has emerged: Asteroids that come within about 100 million miles of the black hole (perhaps as the result of a close encounter with a planet or a star) are torn to pieces by the hole's tidal forces (middle-right panel). The fragments are then vaporized by Sgr A*'s gases, resulting in the observed flares (bottom-right panel), much like what happens to a meteor that burns up in Earth's atmosphere. In the image above, the three panels at right are an artist's representation of this process.

Below, recent Pictures of the Day:

Image: NASA.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In