The stars in the centre of our galaxy. Our supermassive black hole IS in there, somewhere... (ESO)

Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt: A Supermassive Black Hole Lives in Centre of Our Galaxy

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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One the one hand, this might not be surprising news, but on the other, the implications are startling. A supermassive black hole (called Sagittarius A*) lives at the centre of the Milky Way. This is the conclusion of a 16 year observation campaign of a region right in the centre of our galaxy where 28 stars have been tracked, orbiting a common, invisible point.

Usually these stars would be obscured by the gas and dust in that region, but the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile has used its infrared telescopes to peer deep into the black hole’s lair. Judging by the orbital trajectories of these 28 stars, astronomers have not only been able to pinpoint the black hole’s location, they have also deduced its mass…

It has been long recognised that supermassive black holes probably occupy the centres of most galaxies, from dwarf galaxies to thin galactic disks to large spiral galaxies; the majority of galaxies appear to have them. But actually seeing a black hole is no easy task; astronomers depend on observing the effect a supermassive black hole has on the surrounding gas, dust and stars rather than seeing the object itself (after all, by definition, a black hole is black).

Yearly location of stars within 0.2 parsecs from Sagittarius A* orbiting the common, compact radio source (from a different research paper by A. Ghez)In 1992, astronomers using the ESO’s 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope in Chile turned their attentions on our very own galactic core to begin an unprecedented observation campaign. Since 2002, the 8.2-metre Very Large Telescope (VLT) was also put to use. 16 years later, with over 50 nights of total observation time, the results are in.

By tracking individual stars orbiting a common point, ESO researchers have derived the best empirical evidence yet for the existence of a 4 million solar mass black hole. All the stars are moving rapidly, one star even completed a full orbit within those 16 years, allowing astronomers to indirectly study the mysterious beast driving our galaxy.

The centre of the Galaxy is a unique laboratory where we can study the fundamental processes of strong gravity, stellar dynamics and star formation that are of great relevance to all other galactic nuclei, with a level of detail that will never be possible beyond our Galaxy,” explains Reinhard Genzel, team leader of this research at the Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching near Munich, Germany.

Undoubtedly the most spectacular aspect of our 16-year study, is that it has delivered what is now considered to be the best empirical evidence that super-massive black holes do really exist,” Genzel continues. “The stellar orbits in the galactic centre show that the central mass concentration of four million solar masses must be a black hole, beyond any reasonable doubt.”

Apart from being the most detailed study of Sagittarius A*’s neighbourhood (the techniques used in this study are six-times more precise than any study before it), the ESO astronomers also deduced the most precise measurement of the distance from the galactic centre to the Solar System; our supermassive black hole lies a safe 27,000 light years away.

A lot of information was gleaned about the individual stars too. “The stars in the innermost region are in random orbits, like a swarm of bees,” says Stefan Gillessen, first author of the paper published in The Astrophysical Journal. “However, further out, six of the 28 stars orbit the black hole in a disc. In this respect the new study has also confirmed explicitly earlier work in which the disc had been found, but only in a statistical sense. Ordered motion outside the central light-month, randomly oriented orbits inside – that’s how the dynamics of the young stars in the Galactic Centre are best described.”

Quite simply, the object influencing these stars must be a supermassive black hole, there is no other explanation out there. Does this mean black holes have an even firmer standing as a cosmological “fact” rather than “theory”? It would appear so

Sources: ESO, BBC


65 Responses

  1. Ian O'Neill says:

    Hi 100lec, you’re right. The second thumbnail is from another research paper… but the caption is not displaying. Thanks for pointing that out! Will try to fix it 😀

  2. Rey says:

    You know what, what’s even more amazing is that we are all inside this massive & dark “box” and yet, most ordinary humans are less likeky to be intereseted in the fact that currently, we all are moving at the rate of almost the speed of light but since no one notices it, no will believe it, except a selected few, such as readers of UT 😀

  3. LLDIAZ says:

    This black hole is 4 million times the size of the sun and I read that is small. If its true then how big can these monsters get I mean it grows by consuming and it hasn’t been proven that it ejects anything

  4. 100lec says:

    ESO… ESO… VLT… ESO… and the picture is from Keck 😛

  5. latinquasar says:

    It’s a really amazing research. Finally we can talk about the supermassive black hole as a “fact” instead a “theory” 🙂

    I’m sure this black hole will help us to better understand how our own galaxy works.

  6. Mark says:

    How big should the event horizon be for this black hole? We should be able to observe the black hole itself, more or less, by watching a star move in its orbit behind the BH. The star should disappear and then reappear when its trajectory reemerges from behind the black hole.

    Does anyone know how the density of stars in this region compares to the density of stars near the center of Omega Centuri?

  7. Mark says:

    Hmm, there’s something strange about that graphic showing the orbits of the various stars orbiting the BH … you can get a feel for where the BH would have to be for the trajectories of the orbits to be what they are, but that position of the BH is widely divergent for some of the different trajectories!

    Look at the almost circular trajectory of one the stars. The BH would have to be near the center of that orbit right? But the center of that orbit is nowhere near the where the BH would have to be for some of the oblong shaped orbits … can anyone explain this?

  8. Mark says:

    Never mind about the non-common-“center of orbits” comment … look at figure 16 of the original paper :

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0810/0810.4674v1.pdf

    They have all 28 orbits plotted there along with the point they are orbiting. The circular orbit is more oblong than it looks on the keck graphic.

  9. Essel says:

    Some questions that come to my mind:

    – Is the position of Sgr A stationery from our point of observation? From the trajectories plotted for various starts it appears somewhat unlikely. The super-massive black hole itself is possibly spinning as well as wobbling.

    – Some of the starts come very close to Sgr A, much closer than 0.2 parsecs – say even 0.05 parsecs. Would it not create tremendous tidal forces to tear apart these stars?

    – For a 4 million solar mass monster, the region appears too calm to believe its existence. Have we noticed any violent event in these 16 years?

    – Is it possible that there is no super-massive black hole at all, what we are seeing is the gravitational interaction with a concentration of DM. How can we differentiate? As Mark points out “….by watching a star move in its orbit behind the BH. The star should disappear and then reappear when its trajectory reemerges from behind the black hole” There appears to be some stars perfectly aligned for it and such a study can conclusively prove the property of Sgr A. Does it interact with normal matter at all other than gravitational interaction?

    – Is it possible that center of gravity of a massive arrangement like Galaxy exhibits some special property that makes us feel that there is a super-massive black hole but actually that is not the case and it is simply the distributed massive mass of galaxy that has some bearing at its center?

  10. Usman says:

    Wait a moment wasn’t this thing confirmed by NASA some years ago? What’s new this time?

  11. Mr. Obvious says:

    Mark…
    Sag A, while very massive is quite small. Smaller than a planet. So the likelyhood of seeing it in front of a star at this point isn’t likely. Also, having everything lined up perfectly so we could see it wouldn’t happen very often.

    Most of the orbits the stars are taking around the black hole are extremely elliptical. Several trajectories take the stars pretty close (relatively) to the black hole, while others are still quite far away… even at their closest point.

    Finally… there will be slight variations in the track as we see things, since these orbits are tracked over a decade in time, and the galaxy isn’t perfectly stable, and our position changes during this time, and the stars themselves will cause a slight wobble in the BH itself as they pass around.

    In this picture, the BH is almost directly behind the central red and blue star.

    Watching an actual moving model of all the orbits allows you to see things more clearly than a still shot in time. You get a more 3D presence of what is happening.

  12. john mendenhall says:

    “Rey Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 2:47 am
    You know what, what’s even more amazing is that we are all inside this massive & dark “box” and yet, most ordinary humans are less likeky to be intereseted in the fact that currently, we all are moving at the rate of almost the speed of light but since no one notices it, no will believe it, except a selected few, such as readers of UT “

  13. Mark says:

    Stefan Gillessen one of the authors of the paper emailed me back about the possibility of watching a star disappear behind the BH …

    “the chances for that to happen are very low. The apparent diameter of the black hole is 10 micro-arsec only.

    (I.e. we have not observed that and it would be a big coincidence if we would)”

    Thanks to Mr Obvious too.

  14. kymmie_cat says:

    Thank you for providing the links. This research helps people wrap their minds around an invisible object that has great influence on our universe. One of my favorite quotes has always been that somethings have to be seen to be believed, while others have to be believed to be seen. My late father would have enjoyed reading this. We discussed black holes many years ago, when the “theory” was based mainly on previously unknown indicators (radio signals they emitted and strange orbital behaviors).

  15. john mendenhall says:

    Rey Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 2:47 am
    “You know what, what’s even more amazing is that we are all inside this massive & dark “box” and yet, most ordinary humans are less likeky to be intereseted in the fact that currently, we all are moving at the rate of almost the speed of light but since no one notices it, no will believe it, except a selected few, such as readers of UT ”

    What? Earth and the solar system are not traveling anywhere near the speed of light relative to anything local, including our galaxy, the SMBH at its center, Andromeda galaxy, the Local Group, the Virgo Cluster, and anything else closer than halfway across the universe. Where did you ever get such an idea?

  16. john mendenhall says:

    And we’re also not part of the SMBH at the center of the Milky way. Neither are those stars that are orbiting it.

  17. hiro says:

    R = GM/c^2 ~ several million km across. It can be observed if we have a telescope at some distance 550 AU from the sun.

  18. hickninja says:

    Keep in mind that the almost circular orbit you see is actually a more elliptical orbit, but we are viewing it at at angle so it looks circular. Draw an ellipse on a piece of paper with the two foci marked, and then tilt the paper until it looks like a circle. The actual focus is now very close to the edge of this circle.

  19. tacitus says:

    Is the position of Sgr A stationery from our point of observation? From the trajectories plotted for various starts it appears somewhat unlikely. The super-massive black hole itself is possibly spinning as well as wobbling.

    Well, any star orbiting the black hole will influence its position somewhat, just as Earth makes the Sun wobble a tiny amount, but give that the black hole is 4 million solar masses in size, then I highly doubt we can detect that wobble from this far away with today’s technology. (By comparison, the Sun is only 333,000 times the mass of the Earth and we are not yet able to detect wobbles caused by Earth-sized planets around stars much closer to us than the center of the galaxy.

    Some of the stars come very close to Sgr A, much closer than 0.2 parsecs – say even 0.05 parsecs. Would it not create tremendous tidal forces to tear apart these stars?

    Obviously not :). There will be a point at with that will happen, of course, but not at the distances the closest stars are currently orbiting.

    Is it possible that there is no super-massive black hole at all, what we are seeing is the gravitational interaction with a concentration of DM. How can we differentiate?

    Dark matter is far too weak gravitationally to collect into an object that small and have the mass that it does. There is no reason to postulate such an object anyway, since the theoretical physics of black holes is well understood and matches what we see here.

    Does it interact with normal matter at all other than gravitational interaction?

    Well, yes, if normal matter gets close enough it will be swallowed up by the black hole. They have detected flares coming from just outside the black hole’s event horizon when matter (clouds of gas, probably) fall into it. Quasars are thought to be supermassive black holes feeding on a hefty diet of normal matter.

    – Is it possible that center of gravity of a massive arrangement like Galaxy exhibits some special property that makes us feel that there is a super-massive black hole but actually that is not the case and it is simply the distributed massive mass of galaxy that has some bearing at its center?

    No. Impossible. They must be being influenced by a real 4 million solar mass object. If the black hole wasn’t there, the stars would still be orbiting the center of the galaxy, but their speeds and trajectories would be very different.

  20. wo says:

    It has been long recognised that supermassive black holes probably occupy the centres of most galaxies, from dwarf galaxies to thin galactic disks to large spiral galaxies; the majority of galaxies appear to have them.

    Can anyone explain why this is the case? What is the difference between a galaxy with a black hole and one without one at the center? Will this research help explain that better? Hypothetically, if the SMBH were to vanish, what would its effects be? Sorry for all the questions, but my imagination has been piqued.

  21. Steve says:

    Snap out of it people!!! There is no such thing as a black hole. They don’t exist. This is bad astronomy at its finest. Anyone ever hear of the Electric Universe theory? Read their explantions for how the universe works and you will stop believing in this garbage.

  22. astrobob says:

    This SMBH has a mass of 4 million solar mass, but the event horizon is size of the earth? So the singularity is the size of an atom? It pulls on near by stars as shown by the chart and it holds our galaxy together. Why and how are they in the center of most galaxies?

  23. Astrofiend says:

    # Steve Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    “Snap out of it people!!! There is no such thing as a black hole. They don’t exist. This is bad astronomy at its finest. Anyone ever hear of the Electric Universe theory? Read their explantions for how the universe works and you will stop believing in this garbage.”

    >>My God Steve – everyone here has heard of the electric universe theory, as have most physicists and astronomers – it provides us with an endless source humour as we laugh at it’s pathetic inadequacies, many and various inconsistencies, flaccid predictive powers, and of course, it’s proponents.

    EU is not some revolutionary theory being suppressed by the mainstream – it is a conspiracy theorist’s joke being patiently ignored by the mainstream. If you’re into that sort of thing, go for it. But if you’re gonna come on here and try to use EU to shoot down real science, expect to get shot down yourself.

  24. Yan Luz says:

    It will great to learn more about the implications of a Black Hole. I would love to see us someday send a probe towards a black hole. But I won’t be alive to see it get there.

  25. Trippy says:

    “Snap out of it people!!! There is no such thing as a black hole. They don’t exist. This is bad astronomy at its finest. Anyone ever hear of the Electric Universe theory? Read their explantions for how the universe works and you will stop believing in this garbage.”

    Would this be the same EU theory that can not successfully account for the observed distribution of mass in the bullet cluster?

    The EU theory that relies on Halton Arp’s disproven ideas regarding redshift?

    Or the EU theory that predicts the existence of Ambiplasmas – something which has yet to be observed either experimentally, or in the visible universe?

  26. Astrofiend says:

    wo Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    astrobob Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    >>>You have both touched on points that are at the very forefront of astronomy and cosmology in many respects. We are only just beginning to understand the effect black holes have on their host galaxies, how they formed within their galaxy or whether they provided the ‘seed’ for galaxies to form around them. There have been a number of recent findings in this regard, but certainly nothing Earth-shattering or too conclusive – they are all still very much open questions.

    I recommend you do a bit of hunting around on the net for information, or on a site such as sciencedaily.com, searching for supermassive black holes. You could even hunt down some undergrad textbooks on the issue (make sure they are very recently published). You’ll certainly find a lot to pique your interest further…

  27. OilIsMastery says:

    What’s the difference between saying there is a black hole at the center of the universe and saying God caused the Big Bang?

  28. OilIsMastery says:

    According to gravity, stars are sucked into black holes. There is no reason why according to gravity stars should orbit black holes and not be sucked into them.

  29. Heatherrrrr says:

    So I’m space-stupid so can some of you smart physicists please explain to me a few things?

    In my AP Physics class we learned that planets and stars and stuff orbit around the center of mass of the system. For example, our solar system orbits around a spot somewhere inbetween the sun and mercury, not around the sun. Someone please tell me if this is wrong.

    So why can’t we just say that’s the center of mass of the galaxy? Because we’ve calculated this rediculous mass for it right? I actually had a homework probem where I had to calculate the center and then divide it by the mass of our star to approximate how many stars should be there and how many stars there actually are (the number of stars predicted is way more than there actually are). It then suggested that all that junk is something called dark matter. Is the center of our galaxy just some supermassive dark matter that things are orbiting around? Is this still a possibility? My physics book is old.

    Also, I really don’t know anything about black holes but I do know that they are supposed to suck stuff into it. Is there evidence that these stars orbiting around it are moving closer to the center and getting sucked in? or is that not how black holes work?

    If any of you are so kind to respond to me, please do not use any smart, physicist jargon because I want to understand the possibilities of what is going on. Also, I really don’t want to be snubbed at for my probably idiotic questions. I’ve already admit I’m no genius.

  30. Excalibur says:

    >OilIsMastery Says:
    >December 10th, 2008 at 6:09 pm
    >According to gravity, stars are sucked into >black holes. There is no reason why >according to gravity stars should orbit black >holes and not be sucked into them.

    That is incorrect, according to gravity, stars are expected to orbit also black holes, up to the point where the star is very close to the event horizon, where they are first disrupted completely (torn apart) and the gas ‘sucked’ in after possibly lingering for awhile in something called an accretion disk.

  31. tacitus says:

    What’s the difference between saying there is a black hole at the center of the universe and saying God caused the Big Bang?

    The former is a discovery of science, the latter is a matter of faith.

  32. tacitus says:

    According to gravity, stars are sucked into black holes. There is no reason why according to gravity stars should orbit black holes and not be sucked into them.

    Think of it this way. If you were to suddenly replace the Sun with a black hole of the same mass, what do you think would happen to Earth’s orbit?

    The answer is: nothing. Earth would carry on around the Sun as if nothing had changed. And if we were on the night side of the planet, we wouldn’t even notice until dawn was supposed to happen and didn’t. The amount of gravitational attraction the Earth “feels” would not change at all.

    So, as long as planets and star remain in orbit a safe distance away, there is no reason why they should be torn apart by a black hole.

  33. tacitus says:

    For example, our solar system orbits around a spot somewhere inbetween the sun and mercury, not around the sun. Someone please tell me if this is wrong.

    Close but not quite correct. The “spot” is actually somewhere inside the Sun, very close to, but not quite, at the center. That’s because the mass of the Sun is so much greater than all the planets put together. Also, the “spot” is more like a “smear” because all the planets move around at different speeds moving the center of gravity around a little bit (and causing the Sun to wobble a little).

    So why can’t we just say that’s the center of mass of the galaxy? Because we’ve calculated this rediculous mass for it right?

    Yes, we looked at the stars moving orbiting very close to the center of the galaxy and determined that they must be orbiting an object that is 4 million times the mass of our sun. If that object (the black hole) was not there, then the stars would not be moving anywhere near as fast as they are.

    It then suggested that all that junk is something called dark matter. Is the center of our galaxy just some supermassive dark matter that things are orbiting around? Is this still a possibility? My physics book is old.

    Well, technically, black holes are a form of dark matter, since the original definition of the term was simply stuff we can’t detect directly — i.e. it’s dark because it doesn’t emit any light. More recently, it was determined that there are not enough black holes around to account for the movement of the stars around the centers of their galaxies, so they determined that most of the dark matter is something very different from black holes. So, even though we don’t know what it is, that is what we now call Dark Matter. If your text book is more than a few years old, it’s no surprise the terms it uses are out of date. This stuff is pretty new.

    Also, I really don’t know anything about black holes but I do know that they are supposed to suck stuff into it. Is there evidence that these stars orbiting around it are moving closer to the center and getting sucked in? or is that not how black holes work?

    Sort of. Not stars (at least not at the moment), but gas (probably ripped from stars that got too close). Whenever gas or a star falls into a black hole we can detect a flare using infrared telescopes here on Earth, and we have detected a number of them coming from the black hole at the center of the galaxy. We can’t see the gas that caused the flares, but we know it must have been there.

    If any of you are so kind to respond to me, please do not use any smart, physicist jargon because I want to understand the possibilities of what is going on. Also, I really don’t want to be snubbed at for my probably idiotic questions. I’ve already admit I’m no genius.

    Was I jargon-free enough for you?

  34. Astrofiend says:

    Heatherrrrr Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Heatherrrrr,

    Yes, it is true that all objects in the solar system orbit their collective centre of mass. The c.o.m is not a physical thing per se, but objects in the solar system do orbit it none-the-less – mathematically we can pretend that the rest of the mass of the solar system lies precisely at this point, and the result of any orbital calculations one may wish to make about a given object such as Jupiter will be the same under either circumstance. Hence it greatly simplifies calculations of this type. I must say though, I would be surprised if this spot lay outside the Sun – I would have thought it would be within the Sun but offset from the Sun’s geometric centre – but I may be wrong!

    I’m not sure what you mean by the next bit “So why can’t we just say that’s the center of mass of the galaxy? Because we’ve calculated this rediculous mass for it right?”

    Do you mean ‘why don’t we think that the stars are simply orbiting the centre of mass of the galaxy as opposed to a 4 Million solar mass black hole?’ If that is the case, then there is a subtle effect going on that means that the stars will NOT orbit the centre of mass of the galaxy as if the entire mass of the galaxy were concentrated at it’s centre. Physicists call it the shell theorem, and it states:

    1. A spherically symmetric body affects external objects gravitationally as though all of its mass were concentrated at a point at its center.
    2. If the body is a spherically symmetric shell (i.e. a hollow ball), no gravitational force is exerted by the shell on any object inside, regardless of the object’s location within the shell.
    3. Inside a solid sphere of constant density the gravitational force varies linearly with distance from the center, becoming zero at the center of mass.

    The above refers to a sphere of mass, but applies equally to a disk of mass such as our galaxy too. Basically it simply states that because the stars in question are orbiting right at the very centre of the galaxy, everything that lies further from the centre of the galaxy than them has no net gravitational influence on them – it is as if it were not there. It is due to the fact that, for everything that lies outside their orbit pulling them one direction, there is corresponding mass on the opposite side of the galaxy that cancels this pull out – only objects inside their orbit contributes to the net gravitational effect that they feel.

    Hence, we see these massive stars in very tight orbits around an extremely small region with no object apparently visible there. We can use some maths along with our observations to calculate that an object would have to weigh about 4 million times that of the Sun to have such a dramatic gravitational effect on these stars. This and other lines of evidence lead us inexorably to the conclusion that the object at the centre of the galaxy is in fact a supermassive black hole.

    As for ‘black holes sucking stuff in’, yes they do, but only if you get right up close to them – pretty much touching them. If you are a bit further out, like these stars are, then you would simply orbit the black hole, unless some mechanism made you lose orbital energy, in which case you would indeed end up spiraling into the hole. Such mechanisms really do exist – though I won’t go into them here. It is highly likely that at least some of these stars will end up being shredded by the hole in the end, but due to the chaotic nature of the gravitational interactions near the centre of the galaxy, the stars may be flung away and saved…

    I hope that clears it up a bit for you – my ability to explain such things is sadly limited so I apologise for that, but I suggest you keep poking around for the answers you’re after – it’s a fascinating subject after all!

  35. Astrofiend says:

    tacitus Says:
    December 11th, 2008 at 12:07 am

    My hat off to you tacitus – you’ve done a far better job at explaining these things than I!

  36. tacitus says:

    Oh, I don’t know Astrofiend, you did a pretty good job yourself. I might have been more jargon-free but I believe you were more technically accurate.

    Let’s just hope that Heather (with lots of ‘r’s) gets what she needs from both!

  37. Jarod says:

    That was an incredible explanation tacitus! In that last few minutes I have learned more valuable information then I have in the last semester at my college. Thanx man!

  38. OilIsMastery says:

    Tacitus, according to you a supermassive black hole has no more gravitational attraction than a yellow dwarf? Why is that? Because there is no such thing as gravity?

  39. Steve says:

    …EU is not some revolutionary theory being suppressed by the mainstream – it is a conspiracy theorist’s joke being patiently ignored by the mainstream. If you’re into that sort of thing, go for it. But if you’re gonna come on here and try to use EU to shoot down real science, expect to get shot down yourself. …

    How foolish of me. It is obviously better to resort to things like Black Holes, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Inflation, Neutron Stars, etc.. We can’t detect any of this stuff, and it violates the laws of physics… but we ‘know’ it is there. Our math tells us so. Is that what ‘real’ science is?

    The reason we need these imaginary objects is because there is not enough ‘stuff’ to generate the amount of gravity needed to hold everything together. So instead of looking for another force at work, we create objects of infinite density to provide the necessary gravity needed. Then we put it in just the right places, and everything holds together.

    One day people will look back at these theories and get a good laugh.

  40. tacitus says:

    Tacitus, according to you a supermassive black hole has no more gravitational attraction than a yellow dwarf? Why is that? Because there is no such thing as gravity?

    Oils. That’s not what I said. In the example I gave, I suggested that if the Sun was instantaneously replaced by a black hole of the same mass then the Earth’s orbit would not be affected at all. A black hole the same mass of the Sun is not a supermassive black hole.

    Obviously, if a supermassive black hole was to replace the Sun, Earth would probably be torn apart in seconds — but that would be true even if a supermassive star was put there also (not that one that massive can exist).

    The point is that it’s the mass of the object that’s important when it comes to the gravitational effect it has, it doesn’t matter if it’s a red giant, white dwarf, or black hole. If they all have the same mass, then any planets in orbit will move around them exactly the same way (assuming they are far enough away not to be burned up, of course!).

  41. tacitus says:

    How foolish of me. It is obviously better to resort to things like Black Holes, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Inflation, Neutron Stars, etc.. We can’t detect any of this stuff, and it violates the laws of physics… but we ‘know’ it is there. Our math tells us so. Is that what ‘real’ science is?

    Absolutely! That’s what’s so amazing about the Universe and our ability to comprehend it. Black holes were theorized long before any evidence for them was discovered. The mathematical theory behind them was compelling and undeniable, so it was no surprise (but still very exciting) when the observational evidence started to roll in. Neutron stars are similarly solidly based on mathematical and physics foundations. And we have already found and observed numerous neutron stars (pulsars).

    Dark matter and dark energy are still more speculative, but the evidence for the real presence of dark matter is coming in faster all the time. But even the idea of dark energy, which is the most speculative of the lot (and could be superseded by a better theory in time) is still a lot better founded than the poorly developed EU theory.

    EU cannot explain the presence of cosmic background radiation whereas standard cosmology not only explains it, it predicted it. The same goes for other properties of observed space, such as the arrangement of galactic clusters.

    Demands by EU supporters that they should be taken seriously are based on the fallacy that if the currently established theory cannot explain everything then we should toss out the baby with the bathwater and start again with a completely new theory. The same argument is made by creationists and ID theorists against evolution. But you cannot just pick on the few problematic areas still to be worked out and ignore the mountains of evidence that is all explained exquisitely by standard theory.

    The bottom line is that if you believe EU better explains the universe, prove it. Produce the evidence and the scientists will come around eventually. The Big Bang theory was laughed at for years before it cosmologists had to accept that it was superior to alternative models. Geologists poo-pooed the idea of plate tectonics for decades before the mounting evidence compelled them to accept it. Maybe, against all the odds, EU will be proved correct, but it won’t be because its proponents just sit in the wings sniping and griping at the standard theory’s inability to explain absolutely everything in the Universe yet.

  42. robbb says:

    there is an awful lot of evidence in favor of the standard model when it comes to black holes.

    i am always intrigued by legitimate alternative ideas to the SM, but agree with tacitus that just b/c SM can’t account for everything we observe is no reason it is still not generally accepted.

  43. Geoff says:

    Reference hiro’s comment og Dec 10 @ 12:04 pm
    NH = 9 years to travel ~35AU, say 4AU/year – at that rate, it would take ~140 years to reach the solar focal point (550AU) around 2146AD.
    If a spacecraft were launched in say 2025AD moving 20 times faster, it could reach this region in ~7 years or 2032.
    Don’t hold your breath on 10x increases in speed per decade any time soon. More like launch in 2050 and be there in 2057. It would be nice, though whenever we could get there.

  44. Astrofiend says:

    “Our math tells us so. Is that what ‘real’ science is?”

    No, if math tells us something, then that is just math. It is in comparing our theory (with math as a core component) to observation/experiment and trying to prove these theories wrong all the time that it becomes science.

  45. Excalibur says:

    Steve:

    >>One day people will look back at these theories and get a good laugh.

    I lolled… at Steve… right now 😛

  46. OilIsMastery says:

    “But then if there were events of this character, discharges between planets and so on, I put one of the most outrageous claims before the scientific readers, that in the solar system and in the universe generally, not just gravitation and inertia are the two forces of action but that also electricity and magnetism are participating in the mechanism, so the Lord was not just a watchmaker. The universe is not free of those forces with which the man makes his life easy already more than 100 years. They were unknown practically or little known in the time of Newton in the second half of the 17th century. But today we know that electricity and magnetism, these are not just small phenomena that we can repeat as a kind of a little trick in the lab, that they permeate every field from neurology into botony and chemistry and astronomy should not be free…and it was admitted by authorities that this was the most outrageous point in my claims. But the vengeance came early and swiftly. In 1960, already in 1955, radio noises from Jupiter were detected and this was one of the crucial tests that I offered for the truth of my theory. In 1958, the magnetosphere was discovered around the Earth, another claim. In 1960, the interplanetary magnetic field was discovered and solar plasma, so-called solar wind, moving rapidly along the magnetic lines and then it was discovered that the electromagnetic field of the Earth reaches the moon .” — Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1966

  47. tacitus says:

    Not sure if you’re quoting Immanuel Velikovsky as some kind of authority on cosmology, but it’s clear from his record that he was a crank. A precursor to people like Richard Hoagland and Tom Van Flandren, perhaps, and just as wrong.

  48. Astrofiend says:

    Come on Oils – look him up in wikipedia and check out some of his ideas! He was a frigging shrink, not a cosmologist!

    Immanuel Velikovsky was a man that took his own world view as a given (based upon mythology, religious and other dogmatic viewpoints) and then picked and chose his ‘evidence’ to support it, completely ignoring anything that didn’t fit. It is the opposite of basing his world view on the evidence at hand as one has to if they are to claim to be doing science.

    We know there is electromagnetic phenomena in the universe – it is well understood and completely described by classical EM theory and special relativity. There isn’t the merest suggestion of anything beyond this in any physics experiment or observation ever made.

  49. Astrofiend says:

    “There isn’t the merest suggestion of anything beyond this in any physics experiment or observation ever made.”

    Barring the quantum domain of course.

  50. Antti o says:

    Ok. Suppose there are black holes in the universe, how unlikely the theory is. Let’s suppose that we could ride on a beam of light ( at the speed of light) and we would cross this magical line of “event horizon”. There a huge gravitational center waiting us. Our speed would accelarate endlessly until we hit the center of non-existance. So our speed would be … zero. So our energy would be … zero. E=mc2. If energy is matter, and energy is matter. No energy, no matter, no gravitational center, no black hole.

  51. Phil says:

    Wow!! People get pretty worked up by Black Holes it seems.

    Anyway, supposing all this theory is real… Doesn’t 4 million solar masses seem kinda wimpy?? I am sure I have read about these SMBs being billions of solar masses???

    I’m hardly an expert or a devote believer but it makes sense that this mass should be in there (in some form) somewhere… Why is the Milky Way so wimpy??

  52. tacitus says:

    Antti o:Our speed would accelarate endlessly until we hit the center of non-existance.

    Nope, you would not accelerate at all since you are already traveling at the speed of light, which is the cosmic speed limit. And the center is not “non-existence”, it is a singularity — a point in space-time — that has mass.

    So our speed would be … zero. So our energy would be … zero. E=mc2. If energy is matter, and energy is matter. No energy, no matter, no gravitational center, no black hole.

    Since your assumptions are wrong, your conclusions are wrong too. There is much we still don’t know about black holes, but the contradiction you describe does not exist.

  53. tacitus says:

    Anyway, supposing all this theory is real… Doesn’t 4 million solar masses seem kinda wimpy?? I am sure I have read about these SMBs being billions of solar masses???

    I’m hardly an expert or a devote believer but it makes sense that this mass should be in there (in some form) somewhere… Why is the Milky Way so wimpy??

    It’s probably a lot to do with the history of the Milky Way. If our galaxy hasn’t been involved in many collisions with other galaxies then there’s probably less chance for a really humongous supermassive black hole to form. After the Milk Way collides with Andromeda in a couple of billion years, we will have a much bigger black hole at the center of the merged galaxies!

  54. Steven (Not Steve) :) says:

    Rey Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 2:47 am
    ” we all are moving at the rate of almost the speed of light but since no one notices it ”

    # john mendenhall Says:
    December 10th, 2008 at 10:17 am
    Where did you ever get such an idea?

    john mendenhall I am sure Rey got the idea, that relative from the other side of the Universe we are moving at the rate of almost the speed of light.

  55. Steve says:

    If there was a black hole at the center of our galaxy, it must at some time eclipse our view of something.

    Lets say we could not see Venus, but our math told us it was there. We would be able to verify its existence because it would block our view of what is behind it. Over time, we could determine its exact size.

    This should be true of black holes as well. I have never heard of this happening. Since we are tracking stars at the center of the galaxy, we should be able to ‘see’ the black hole too, if it were there. It is unreasonable to believe that a black hole has no diameter (a singularity). All the sucked in matter can not occupy no space at all. And everything I have read says that they do in fact have diameter.

    In short there is a simple explanation. Black Hole Do Not Exist!!

  56. Heatherrrrr says:

    Just wanted to say thanks a lot for the non-jargoned explanation. Very interesting!

  57. COMPREHENSIVE VIEW OF SCIENCE OF RELIGION (THEOLOGY)

    I have written following two papers which may lead to the realization for a higher theory of everything:

    (i) Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator,
    (1st Int. Conf. on Revival of Traditional Yoga, Lonavla Yoga Institute, Lonavla, January, 2006)
    (ii) In Scientific Terminology, Source of Gravitational Wave is God
    (2nd World Congress on Vedic Science, BHU, Varanasi, Feb 2007)
    I have presented these two papers at the two different International Conferences. I am now submitting some views for being considered for Unified Field Theory

    From Scriptures:
    The Current which manifested in the beginning of the creation is the Current of Sabda (Sound) and of Chaitanya (Consciousness). From whom that Current issued forth is known as Soami (Supreme Being). This Current, by turning back can merge again in the Holy Feet of Supreme Being. The entire creation manifested from this current and is sustained with its energy and when the Current of the Holy Feet is withdrawn, the creation ceases to exist.This Current of the Holy Feet is the Reservoir of all energy, tastes and pleasures, knowledge, skill, shapes, forces and light etc. etc. and of the entire creation, is also the Creator of all of them.

    From Science:
    Gravitation Force is the cause of manifestation of the creation (birth of planets, stars), its sustenance and when it is withdrawn towards centre or source the entire creation ceases to exist. Photons have originated from gravitons. In black holes photons merge into gravitons. In Black Holes, Gravitational Force is so high that it does not allow even light to escape. What does it mean then? It simply means that the gravitational force at black-holes attracts light towards it with much greater velocity than the speed of light. In fact, all forces including electromagnetic force, material force (strong and weak nuclear force) all merge into gravitational force in black-holes and becomes one force there and when the creational process starts again from a Black-Hole all the forces appear (manifest) again and descends downwards to create billions of stars, planets, satellite, asteroids and various life forms.

    Hence it can be assumed that the Current of Chaitanya (Consciousness) and Gravitational Wave are the two names of the same Supreme Essence (Seed) which has brought forth the entire creation.

    All cosmological researches should be conducted keeping in view of the following philosophical facts:
    It has been stated in Bible (John I-1) “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”
    Mohammedans hold that God uttered ‘Kun’ (i.e. ‘Came into being’) and the creation came into being (Holy Quran, Sur. Bakr (II.117).
    In Chhandogya Upanishad it is written “Tadaikshat bahu syam prajayeyeti” (VI-2-iii) i.e. “It thought (desired) Would that I were many! Let me procreate myself!” The Aitareya Upanishad says,”Sa ikshat ‘lokannusrija’ iti (I-1-i) i.e. “He bethought himself (desired) – ‘Let me create worlds’, etc. etc.
    It is written in Chapter VII of Srimad Bhagavadgita : Sri Bhagwan said, “Arjun, now listen how with the mind attached to Me and practicing Yoga with absolute dependence on Me, you will know Me in entirety and without any shadow of doubt” (1). I shall unfold to you in its entirety this wisdom alongwith the Knowledge of the qualified aspect of God, having known which nothing else remains yet to be known in this world (2). Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason and also ego; these constitute My nature eightfold divided. This indeed is My lower (material) nature : the other than this, by which the whole universe is sustained, know it to be My higher nature in the form of Jiva, O Arjuna. (4-5). Arjuna, know that all beings have evolved from this twofold Prakriti, and that I am the source of the entire creation, and into Me again it disappears.(6)
    The Radhasoami Religion also tells that, the ‘Word’ mentioned above is in fact Current of Sound or Current of Consciousness or Prime Current of Spirituality which was issued forth from its Source, or Creator or God. This Current has later on produced light and other forces. The scientists are discussing these days about dark energy which constitute about 96% of the entire universe which is not known to us. Only 4% part of the universe is known to us by all scientific means. In fact this 96% invisible portion of the universe is the vast expanse of spirituality which can be designated as field of gravitational waves in scientific terms. Visible portion of the universe (4%) consists of consciousness (gravitational force), mental force (electromagnetic waves) and material force (strong and weak nuclear force).
    Body = Nuclear Force (weak as well as strong)
    Mind = Electromagnetic Force.
    Consciousness = Gravitation Force.
    According to Radhasoami Religion the whole Universe can be sub-divided into three grand divisions viz.
    1. Region of Pure Spirituality
    2. Region of Subtle Maya
    3. Region of Gross Maya
    Nuclear forces dominate Region of Gross Maya (Gross Material Region), Electro-magnetic forces dominate Region of Subtle Maya (Subtle Material Region) and Gravitational Force dominates Pure Spiritual Region.
    This is the only Truth which can be verified scientifically and can be termed as ‘higher theory for everything’. This also supports the statement of Sir Sahabji Maharaj that ‘the goal of science – Truth; the goal of philosophy – Ultimate Reality; and the goal of religion – God’ are the three names of same supreme essence.
    Many things are common between Current of Consciousness and Gravitational Wave.
    1. Current of consciousness can not be seen by any means and gravitational wave can also not be seen.
    2. Current of consciousness is the weakest force on earth. Its strength goes on increasing on higher regions. Gravitational force is also very weak on earth and strong on Sun and even more stronger on black holes.
    3 Tendency of both current of consciousness and gravitational waves are towards their source or centre.
    4. Current of consciousness and gravitational force are both regarded as the creater of all the celestial and terrestrial bodies of the whole universe. They are also sustainer of these and when they turn back towards their source or centre the whole universe will collapse.
    Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
    This theory is based on scientific deduction. In scientific terms it can be said that the ‘gravitons’ are the elementaryparticle which was issued forth in the beginning of the creation accompanying with sound ‘Radha’
    =====================================
    Yoga (Application) which was based on the control of the body physically and implied that a perfect control over the body and the senses led to knowledge of the ultimate reality. A detailed anatomical knowledge of the human body was necessary to the advancement of yoga and therefore those practising yoga had to keep in touch with medical knowledge. (Romila Thapar, A History of India, volume one).

    I suggest : Mind and brain are two distinct things. Brain is anatomical entity whereas mind is functional entity. Mind can be defined as the function of autonomic nervous system (ANS). It is claimed that mind can be brought under conscious control through the practice of meditation. But how? ANS is largely under hypothalamic control which is situated very close to optic chiasma (sixth chakra or ajna chakra). Protracted practice of concentration to meditate at this region brings functions of ANS say mind under one’s conscious control.

    ANS is further divided into parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS). On the basis of these facts I have discovered a mathematical relationship for spiritual quotient (S.Q.). Spiritual Quotient can be expressed mathematically as the ratio of Parasympathetic dominance to Sympathetic dominance. PSNS dominates during meditative calm and SNS dominates during stress. In this formula we assign numerical values to the physiological parameters activated or suppressed during autonomic mobilization and put in the formula to describe the state of mind of an individual and also infer his/her level of consciousness.

    Protracted practice of meditation under qualified guidance will help to manage all sort of psychological problems.

    Emotional Quotient can also be expressed mathematically as the product of I.Q. and Wisdom Factor.

    Anirudh Kumar Satsangi

  58. mike says:

    As it turns out, sometimes a mathematical model is so precise that it tells us that a butterfly flapping it’s wings can cause a tornado on the other side of the earth. Now that the math model for this black hole has been developed, it turns out that 1/6th of a butterfly can cause a tornado on the other side of the earth. And so we see that this is what the “MATH” tells us. The answers truly come from the math. The question is, why is the math model so very very wrong. My kids jumping on the trampoline in the backyard just created 15 smaller black holes according to the mathematical model. luckily they were all at the center of a galaxy far far away, so they would never be seen or measured.

  59. john mendenhall says:

    Ignoring the recent faith-based gibberish for few posts,

    “john mendenhall I am sure Rey got the idea, that relative from the other side of the Universe we are moving at the rate of almost the speed of light.”

    I recognized that point. And from the antipodal point on the opposite side of the universe, we appear to be moving at near the speed of light in the opposite direction, and so on ad infinitum all about the edge of the visible universe. Net motion = zero. Aside from the ‘O My God Particle’ (google it), we haven’t seen anything local other than cosmic rays that is moving at a high fraction of c. And even the OMGP was just a cosmic ray on steroids.

  60. Wisdom lies in giving due recognition to faith-based posts. Faith is as old as human civilization is. Faith is the outcome of man’s internal and external experiences. Current Science has a history of about five hundred years. Einstein had once said :’ Religion without science is blind and science without religion is lame’. If both develops together it is in the interest of the humanity at large. Thanks.

  61. R Houston says:

    Black Holes are a fantasy just like the ridiculous Big Bang theory and dust collapsing to form accretion disks which formed the planets and all the other made up excuses to try and justify the gravity only driven universe of dogmatic science. Snap out of your cosmic fog.

  62. c henry says:

    r houston, you are a complete babbling idiot!!! the big bang is quite a fact… as a matter of fact it will happen again… smbh which reside in the center of galaxies are seeds… if only anyone or anyrhing would be around to see it happen

  63. Soto says:

    I seen it happen…When I was in Nebulon Sector 17 I saw it…

  64. R Houston says:

    c henry, you are the babbling idiot. Black hoels are only a theory. Made up just like the absolutely ridiculius, fictional, impossible big bang THEORY. The universe is better understood by an electrical engineer than a mathemetician who has to make up theories like black holes, the big bang, nuetron stars, dark matter, etc. Things that have never been observed in reality, something that you do not live in. Like i said before snap out of your cosmic fog.

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