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A giant gas cloud is set to spiral into the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way's core in the next few months, and scientists should get a great view of the dramatic celestial action.
NASA's Swift satellite will have a front-row seat for the enormous gas cloud collision, and astronomers can barely contain their excitement. "Everyone wants to see the event happening because it's so rare," Nathalie Degenaar, of the University of Michigan, said in a statement. [Milky Way's Black Hole Eats Gas Cloud (Images)]
In 2003, scientists discovered what seemed to be a cloud of gas, termed G2, which should collide in March or thereabouts with the supermassive black hole that lurks at the heart of the Milky Way. The interaction will reveal much about this black hole, which is known as Sagittarius A* (or Sag A* for short).
G2 should experience strong gravitational effects as it approaches Sag A*, but how dramatic those effects will be is still up in the air. "The biggest question probably is, Will there be fireworks or not?" UCLA astronomer Leo Meyer said. "We still don’t know."