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

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.

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.

Join the Discussion

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

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Technology

Just In