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The Black Hole at the Center of our Galaxy

By: Fulvio Melia

204 pages, 40 col illus

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Dec 2003 | #137701 | ISBN: 0691095051
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £36.99 $47/€41 approx

About this book

Describes the technological advances that have recently brought us to the point of seeing through all the cosmic dust to a dark spot in a clouded cluster of stars in the constellation Sagittarius. Assembles the compelling circumstantial evidence for its black hole status, showing that it is primed to reveal itself within this decade through revolutionary images of its "event horizon" against the bright backdrop of nearby radiating gas.

A delightful book containing wonderful images and illustrations portraying the center of our galaxy as a region with a personality and character worthy of great study. The sort of book you would read on a cold rainy night by the fireside--with your imagination marveling at the journey the author takes you on... You generally come away feeling you have learned some fresh physics and are compelled to agree that supermassive black holes are a reality. -- Kevin Long Astronomy Professional and armchair astronomers alike will delight in [Melia's] scientific erudition, lucid style, and sophisticated charm... After all, anyone who can quote St. Augustine on the quixotic nature of time while simultaneously explaining how event horizons and singularity in black holes eliminate time must be a master teacher. -- Jim Bencivenga The Christian Science Monitor Astronomy buffs will find this account both engrossing and informative. Publishers Weekly Space enthusiasts, and people interested in the nature of our universe, who want some light reading material will enjoy Melia's little book about a huge discovery in astrophysics. -- Linda Rowan Science Astronomers call it Sagittarius A*, but that hardly paints a vivid picture of the star-swallowing, light-bending, time-slowing monstrosity lurking a mere 28,000 light years from your front door. -- Marcus Chown New Scientist Interested in black holes? This is the book for you! ... Melia takes readers on a tour unlike any other--to the very heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way... He also provides an excellent primer on basic gravitational theory, particle physics, and relativity--not a mean feat for a book aimed at the layperson. Choice Melia is a gifted astrophysicist and a compelling storyteller who mixes beautiful language with the jargon of astrophysics to tell a riveting tale of discovery and exploration at the heart of the Milky Way... [This is] a gripping, well-told tale by a scientist whose work is at the forefront of black-hole research. What Melia has crafted here is nothing short of a scientific detective story... If you're in the mood for a good astronomical detective tale to read on a dark and stormy night, this well-written, nicely illustrated work will keep you riveted to the page. -- Carolyn Collins Peterson Sky & Telescope The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy is the story of the discovery of an astonishing object that has presented yet another new challenge to our understanding of astronomy, specifically galactic evolution. -- Terrell Kent Holmes Mercury The mind- and spacetime-bending subject of this timely book is bound to have a broad appeal, and Melia amplifies that appeal with a carefully crafted lyrical writing style and a striking collection of handsome color images... Fortunately, Melia is an excellent wordsmith. His book is aimed at the lay public and is ideally suited as a supplemental reading for students in a general education course in physics or astronomy. -- Mark R. Morris Physics Today


PREFACE vii 1. THE GALACTIC CENTER 1 1.1 The Hidden Realm 3 1.2 Removing the Dusty Veils 10 1.3 The Principal Constituents 18 1.4 Exploration from Space 27 2. CONDENSATION OF DARK MATTER 35 2.1 A Swarm of Stars 37 2.2 The Motion of Stars and Gas 39 2.3 The Missing Mass 44 2.4 A Super-Heavy Central Object 47 3. THE THEORY OF GRAVITY 51 3.1 What Is Mass? 51 3.2 Development of a Gravity Theory 61 3.3 Everything Is Relative 69 3.4 The Principle of Equivalence 77 3.5 The Key Predictions of General Relativity 83 3.6 Black Holes and Their Event Horizons 94 4. A STAR IN SAGITTARIUS 105 4.1 Hawking Radiation 106 4.2 Energy Extraction according to Penrose 111 4.3 Cosmic Fireworks 114 4.4 Shape and Size of Sagittarius A* 117 4.5 The Glow of Matter Falling In 122 5. THE EVENT HORIZON 129 5.1 The Environment near the Precipice 131 5.2 How the Dark Shadow Forms 134 5.3 An Image of the Black Hole within This Decade 143 5.4 An X-Ray Image of the Dark Shadow from Space 146 5.5 Impact on the General Theory of Relativity 149 6. QUASARS AND GALACTIC NUCLEI 153 6.1 The Host Galaxies of Quasars 157 6.2 The Active Nuclei of Other Galaxies 161 6.3 Superluminal Motion 168 6.4 The Supermassive Black Hole Menagerie 174 6.5 Future Horizons 177 REFERENCES 179 INDEX 183

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Fulvio Melia is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Arizona and Scientific Editor of the "Astrophysical Journal". A former Presidential Young Investigator and Sloan Research Fellow, he is the author of more than 170 articles on theoretical astrophysics and of a textbook, Electrodynamics.

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