Scientists look forward to viewing an upcoming space feast as a giant gas cloud approaches a black hole in the center of the Milky Way. It may offer an unprecedented chance to see how black holes devour objects.
From National Geographic:
The black hole at the center of the Milky Way, 26,000 light-years away, is named Sagittarius A*. Sgr A* — that's the standard abbreviation; its surname is pronounced A-star — is currently a tranquil black hole, a picky eater. Other galaxies contain star-shredding, planet-devouring Godzillas called quasars.
But Sgr A* is preparing to dine. It's pulling a gas cloud named G2 toward it at about 1,800 miles a second. Within as little as a year G2 will approach the hole's event horizon. At this point radio telescopes around the world will focus on Sgr A*, and it's hoped that by synchronizing them to form a planet-size observatory called the Event Horizon Telescope, we will produce an image of a black hole in action. It's not the hole itself we will see but likely what's known as the accretion disk, a ring of debris outlining the edge of the hole, the equivalent of crumbs on a tablecloth after a hearty meal. This should be enough to dispel most doubts that black holes exist.
On The Daily Circuit, we discuss how black holes work, and what scientists really know about these super-massive objects.