Cloudlets swarm around our local supermassive black hole

Eso_potw1843a_1024

eso_potw1843a October 22nd, 2018

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/ J. R. Goicoechea (Instituto de Física Fundamental, CSIC, Spain)

This image from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) shows the area surrounding Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole that lurks at the centre of the Milky Way highlighted here with a small circle. New research has revealed exciting evidence of interstellar gas and dust orbiting the black hole at high speeds. The molecular-hydrogen-rich gas clouds which have been identified are known as molecular cloudlets, and they have never before been unambiguously detected. This image actually shows the distribution of molecules including carbon monoxide, the cloudlets second most abundant molecular component. The cloudlets lie 26 000 light-years away from us, orbiting fast and relatively close to the black hole, at a distance of about one light year. ALMAs high resolution allowed scientists to detect the cloudlets, which are the products of pre-existing massive clouds rotating around the centre of our galaxy. These clouds were tidally disrupted into dense fragments and a lower density, short-lived component. The latter was identified thanks to the signs left by the passage of the synchrotron radiation emitted by Sagittarius A* through diffuse gas between the cloudlets. Although clouds of molecular gas have the potential to form new stars, these cloudlets are unlikely to create stellar newborns. They have a comparatively small mass of around 60 times that of the Sun, and exist close to the huge, turbulent, punishing gravitational forces exerted by Sagittarius A*. While the stars orbiting Sagittarius A* have been systematically observed, these dense molecular cloudlets have not been detected so close to the centre of our galaxy before.

Image Source: https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1843a/

Curator: European Southern Observatory, Garching bei München, None, Germany

Image Use Policy: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Sagittarius A*
Subject - Milky Way
Galaxy > Component > Central Black Hole
Eso_potw1843a_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 17h 45m 40.1s
DEC = -29° 0’ 36.8”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
0.9 x 1.0 arcminutes
Constellation
Sagittarius

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_orange NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (TEXES) Infrared (Ne II) 12.8 µm
Arrow_left_blue Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (None) Millimeter (CO) 867.0 µm
Arrow_left_green Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (None) Millimeter (CO) 867.0 µm
Arrow_left_green NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (TEXES) Infrared (Ne II) 12.8 µm
Arrow_left_red Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (None) Millimeter (H13CN) 894.0 µm
Spectrum_ir1
Arrow_top_orange
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_red
Eso_potw1843a_1280
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ID
potw1843a
Subject Category
B.5.4.6  
Subject Name
Sagittarius A*
Credits
ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/ J. R. Goicoechea (Instituto de Física Fundamental, CSIC, Spain)
Release Date
2018-10-22T06:00:00
Lightyears
Redshift
Reference Url
https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1843a/
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Distance Notes
Facility
NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Instrument
TEXES, None, None, TEXES, None
Color Assignment
Orange, Blue, Green, Green, Red
Band
Infrared, Millimeter, Millimeter, Infrared, Millimeter
Bandpass
Ne II, CO, CO, Ne II, H13CN
Central Wavelength
12800, 866963, 866963, 12800, 893971
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
None, None, None, None, None
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
J2000
Reference Value
266.416896557, -29.0102240968
Reference Dimension
806.0, 892.0
Reference Pixel
403.0, 446.0
Scale
-1.96032952908e-05, 1.96032952908e-05
Rotation
-0
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
European Southern Observatory
URL
http://www.eso.org
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2
City
Garching bei München
State/Province
None
Postal Code
D-85748
Country
Germany
Rights
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher
European Southern Observatory
Publisher ID
eso
Resource ID
potw1843a
Metadata Date
2018-11-07T19:38:54.595355
Metadata Version
1.1
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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There is no distance meta data in this image.