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Science Ticker

See a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way

simulation of the center of the Milky Way

GALACTIC CENTER  Stars (white) and clumps of gas (red) can be seen in this image from a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way. Gas clumps near the galaxy’s black hole are stretched by gravitational forces (orange smear).

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OXON HILL, Md. — Ever wonder what it would be like to sit at the center of the Milky Way and watch the galaxy swirl by? A video debuted in a January 10 news conference at the American Astronomical Society Meeting provides a glimpse.

The 360-degree-simulation, made with data from several telescopes, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, puts viewers at Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole that lurks in the galaxy’s center.

The video depicts about 25 stars (shown in white) that churn through the galaxy’s center over about 500 years. The stars, known as Wolf-Rayet stars, emit winds of gas, shown in red.  As blobs of gas near the supermassive black hole, they are stretched and deformed by the intense gravity — before finally being captured inside.

It’s quite a view — but one you’d never want to experience in real life: The Milky Way’s supermassive black hole has about 4 million times the mass of the sun. Since nothing can escape from inside a black hole, you’d never be able to share what you saw — even if you survived the crushing weight of the behemoth’s gravity.

GALAXY GANDER This 360-degree video gives a simulated view of the environment at the middle of the Milky Way, surrounding the galaxy’s supermassive black hole. Stars (white) orbit the black hole, emitting blobs of gas (red). C. Russell et al./Pontifical Catholic Univ. of Chile, CXC/NASA

Numbers

The largest known prime number has 23 million-plus digits

By Laurel Hamers 7:00am, January 5, 2018
A newly found prime number smashes the previous record for largest prime.
Planetary Science,, Earth

NASA is headed to Earth’s outermost edge

By Carolyn Gramling 6:03pm, January 4, 2018
NASA’s upcoming GOLD mission will study the charged border between Earth and space.
Health

U.S. life expectancy drops for the second year in a row

By Aimee Cunningham 12:05am, December 21, 2017
Life expectancy for the U.S. population decreased in 2016, the second year in a row this measure has dropped.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

NASA’s next stop will be Titan or a comet

By Lisa Grossman 4:56pm, December 20, 2017
The finalists for NASA’s next solar system mission aim to send a drone to Saturn’s largest moon or to return samples from a comet.
Astronomy,, Cosmology

The most distant quasar ever spotted hails from the universe’s infancy

By Lisa Grossman 1:00pm, December 6, 2017
The new record-holder for faraway quasars comes from a period of rapid change in the universe.
Animals,, Paleontology

Here’s yet more evidence that the mythical yeti was probably a bear

By Laurel Hamers 7:06pm, November 28, 2017
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Astronomy,, Planetary Science

Here is Cassini’s last broad look at the Saturn system

By Lisa Grossman 6:00am, November 22, 2017
Two days before plunging into Saturn, Cassini took a mosaic image of the gas giant, its rings and its moons.
Astronomy

The Arecibo Observatory will remain open, NSF says

By Lisa Grossman 3:15pm, November 17, 2017
The iconic Arecibo radio telescope has survived Hurricane Maria and dodged deep funding cuts.
Physics,, Astronomy

Colliding black holes are reported for a fifth time

By Emily Conover 11:40am, November 16, 2017
LIGO spots another merger, this time with less fanfare.
Astronomy

New camera on Palomar telescope will seek out supernovas, asteroids and more

By Lisa Grossman 12:00pm, November 14, 2017
The Zwicky Transient Facility at Palomar Observatory in California will seek supernovas, black holes and asteroids.
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