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Monster of the Milky Way

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This hour-long program is divided into six chapters. Choose any chapter below and select QuickTime, RealVideo, or Windows Media Player to begin viewing. If you experience difficulty viewing, it may be due to high demand. We regret this and suggest you try back at another time.

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Chapter 1
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Early Clues

This chapter:

  • explains how astronomers study the galactic center.

  • reports what one astronomer found when he studied the galactic center with an infrared detector.

running time 4:31

Chapter 2
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Nature's Most Bizarre Creature

This chapter:

  • states where the sun is located in the Milky Way galaxy.

  • notes that astronomers believe a black hole exists at the galaxy's center.

  • reviews Einstein's view of space, time, and gravity.

  • explains the nature of a black hole and states that the laws of physics don't apply inside one.

running time 6:56

Chapter 3
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Tracking the Monster

This chapter:

  • states that a large black hole dominates the center of the Milky Way.

  • indicates that the most powerful telescopes reveal only a blur because the motion of gases in Earth's atmosphere distort distant astronomical objects.

  • explains how astronomers found a way to help eliminate the distortion and observe the center of the galaxy.

  • explains how the pattern of stars in the galactic center revealed that they were circling a supermassive black hole.

running time 6:51

Chapter 4
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Inside Black Holes

This chapter:

  • explains how black holes form.

  • notes that there are millions and millions of small black holes—about 10 miles in diameter—in our galaxy that cannot be seen.

  • describes what happens when matter approaches a black hole.

  • tells what would happen if a person were to enter a small black hole.

  • simulates what the interior of a supermassive black hole would be like.

running time 6:24

Chapter 5
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Actors on the Galactic Stage

This chapter:

  • questions whether the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is unique.

  • reports on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey that took a census of galaxies within a billion light years.

  • shows how astronomers detect how gas swirls into a black hole.

  • reveals that nearly every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its center and explains how black holes arise at a galaxy's center.

running time 10:09

Chapter 6
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Our Very Own Monster

This chapter:

  • explains that a supermassive black hole can be quiet or active.

  • notes that the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy was quiet until 1999 when the Chandra X-ray Observatory detected an explosion near its event horizon.

  • follows astrophysicists' five-night study of activity in the black hole at the center of the galaxy and describes what was learned each night.

running time 7:06

Chapter 7
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Fate of the Milky Way

This chapter:

  • speculates what it might take for the area around the black hole to be active again.

  • explains that in time, galactic cannibalism will occur when the Andromeda galaxy is 2 million light years away and is charging toward our galaxy.

  • displays a simulation of what might occur to the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies.

  • states that black holes actively shape the universe.

running time 6:20

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