Supermassive Black Holes

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In June 2000, astronomers made an extraordinary discovery. That promises to solve one of the biggest problems in cosmology – how and why galaxies are created. Incredibly, the answer has to do the strangest objects, destructive and terrible in the universe – a supermassive black hole. Scientists are beginning to believe that these forces of pure destruction actually favoring the birth of galaxies and are therefore at the heart of the creation of stars, planets and life.

Exactly how our galaxy was created has mystified astronomers and physicists for years. Although there have been many theories, there is little evidence to explain how the gas in the early Universe condensed to form the galaxy we see today. Now scientists realize they’ve been missing a vital ingredient – a supermassive black hole. The immense gravity of a giant black hole could cause the gas to collapse in the first place. For beating the gas around a giant black hole would result in the light of stars, planets and life itself. Despite being the most destructive thing in the universe, scientists now think our supermassive black hole could be crucial in the creation of the galaxy as we know it.

The supermassive black hole in our galaxy may be the reason for our existence, but recent work suggests that it may also be our end. Currently the Earth is so far from the black hole that can affect us, but physicist John Dubinski thinks all that could change. In January 2000, graphically simulated the final fate of the galaxy. In 3 billion years we will collide with another galaxy, Andromeda. The resulting apocalypse will force the Earth and our Solar System out of orbit. Dubinski has calculated a worrying 50:50 chance that we will be sent at full speed towards the black hole at the center of this maelstrom. This would be fatal for the Earth.

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