Inside a supermassive black hole

Written by Raha Lewis, CNN

What do meteorologists, astronauts and astronauts preparing for a mission, and the so-called spectroscopic people (the ones who look at the star formations visible through a telescope) have in common? These cosmologists have done an important thing: They have gotten close to a super-massive black hole in order to see inside it.

You may have even spotted supermassive black holes when they were few and far between, and never realized that they could affect the massive structures in the cosmos.

Now, we can see inside of a galaxy, and watch how a black hole may affect the nature of space and time. This brilliant new research proves that these stars and galaxies may be “hidden” behind this black hole, which is located about 26,000 light-years away in the Bulbul nebula.

Five years ago, I was hired by the Europe-based European Southern Observatory (ESO) as an astrophysicist to set up a high-tech telescope — the Very Large Telescope, which is what this article will refer to as — to watch supermassive black holes in space closely. Back then, the last star to circle the Black Hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy had only been seen since 2002.

Our Galaxy could be hiding an incredible cosmic trove, hidden below the surface. In 2015, ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) stared for days at the event horizon of the black hole called Sagittarius A*, using the Hubble Space Telescope for filters and the Spitzer Space Telescope for spectroscopy (a method of analyzing the physical properties of objects using the light from their motions).

After a test run of six days, we were able to observe the entire day (an entire 12-hour day) in at least a partial detail with both telescopes. Normally, astronomers would get 1.2 billion stars to star like stars in the entire night sky. In 2015, we saw more than 300 million stars (or about 300 stars per second) coming in between the Black Hole and us.

Even though our own galaxy has not yet been found by telescopes, this well known galaxy — just like any other galaxy — could contain galaxies and tens of billions of stars. By studying the stars, we can measure the energy produced and given off by stars in this galaxy and in nearby galaxies, and see how different kinds of stars work together in the universe.

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