CofC researchers ponder happenings in the heavens

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Ever wonder what would happen to a giant gas cloud if it moved close to a massive black hole?

      Maybe not, but researchers at the College of Charleston say considering questions like that could lead to a greater understanding of how the universe works.

      Recently, CofC scientists partnered with researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to complete a study about the fate of a newly discovered gas cloud called G2. G2 is expected to pass a black hole - called Sgr A* - in June.

      The researchers used a supercomputer at Clemson University to try to predict what will happen to the gas cloud next summer.

      "In the case of G2, the simulations predict that the cloud will begin to experience significant disruption starting in 2013," researchers said in a news release Monday. "However, the cloud will not fall directly into the black hole, but will gradually torn apart over the coming decades."

      The simulations will help determine the evolution of G2 through 2020, researchers said.

      The results of the study - authored by P. Chris Fragile and Julia Wilson of the College of Charleston and Peter Anninos and Stephen Murray of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - will appear in the Astrophysical Journal.