The Cloud That Didn't Care
Black Holes have been a running theme in this blog the last few years, and I have given many examples of observations which have contradicted the understanding of how they are supposed to work. Funny enough, I have have never mentioned perhaps the most striking instance of a BH behaving badly: namely, the G2 debacle.
In 2006 astronomers discovered a huge dusty cloud in the vicinity of Sagittarius A*, also known as Milky Way's galactic center, which as we all know is assumed to be a super massive BH. As the years went by, the gas cloud, named G2, was seen drifting closer and closer to the center; and this naturally got the scientific world very excited.
Because according to the theories the cloud would get ripped a part and sucked into the hole, or something like that. But lo and behold, when it finally arrived at its destination in mid 2014, the scientists found themselves rather dumbstruck as they watched it cruise through the abyss completely intact.
|G2 giving zero fucks.
Some tried to explain it away by suggesting that it was a case of false identification, that the cloud was in reality something else, or at least contained one (or two!) huge stars that held it together with their gravity. However, realizing that they thereby confessed to - in one way or another - being incompetent, the incident was largely ignored, and very soon business continued as usual.
Enter, the Fuzzy Ball
However, earlier this week a bunch of articles popped up on several science news-sites, proposing a radically different explanation to the old mystery. Here's a couple of screenshots taken from phys.org, livescience.com and space.com
Apparently, an Italian research team recently published a paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, claiming that they have gathered proof that Sagittarius A* maybe isn't what we think, but instead a "fuzzy ball of dark matter" (I kid you not, that is exactly how they put it).
The team put together a computer simulation of our galactic center. In one of them they simulated the traditional singularity and in another one they replaced it with a fluffy ball of dark matter.
Of course, nobody knows what dark matter is, so the team took the liberty of constructing it out of so called "darkinos". A particle that so far resides in a purely hypothetical realm and therefore has the very practical advantage of having whatever properties one ascribes to it. Here's a quote from the livescience article:
[...] The team of astrophysicists, led by Eduar Antonio Becerra-Vergara of the International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics in Italy, found that if they replaced the supermassive black hole with a ball of darkinos, and those darkino particles had the right mass and velocity, they could replicate all the observed motion of the S-stars. In some cases, their model could do even better than the vanilla black hole calculations at matching the observed orbits.But that result doesn't mean much. The black hole model is exceedingly simple: You just need to plug in two numbers, the black hole mass and spin, to predict how the S-stars should behave. But the darkino model has many more parameters, allowing for more fine-tuning, and the researchers found the best possible combination of darkino properties. [...] (My bold)
In short: they use a computer simulation, throw in object X including a few extra parameters. Then continue to tweak its properties as they see fit until they have more harmonious results.
That's some serious science for ya'll.
Although I welcome the fact that someone in the scientism establishment finally entertains the idea that the object in the the middle of our galaxy might not be a black hole after all, I have to say that it's a little disappointing to see that they want to replace it with more Standard model woo woo.
But be that as it may, there is good reason to see this as positive news. Not only does G2 get some well deserved spotlight again, but apparently some people in the astrophysics departments have a hard time letting it go as well.
The fact that they try to use the deeply problematic dark matter as a band-aid in this case could be interpreted as a sign of desperation. In doing so, they unintentionally call into question some fundamental aspects of the very same model they try to save; and as icing on the cake, they are directly poo-pooing the last years Nobel Prize in Physics. How, you might ask. Well let me end with a quote from the 2020 Nobel committee's press release.
Using the world’s largest telescopes, Genzel and Ghez developed methods to see through the huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the Milky Way. Stretching the limits of technology, they refined new techniques to compensate for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, building unique instruments and committing themselves to long-term research. Their pioneering work has given us the most convincing evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. [Source] (My bold)