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Give thanks

Dear Editor:

I was surprised that I had one reader of my letter on black holes, my old buddy Jim Sawicki. I being the only liberal in the county (actually I know of three others, but they prefer to remain anonymous) wrote the letter as retaliation to the right wing scribblers who have bored me with their drivel for the past thirty years.

In this month’s issue of the Sandia Lab news, the feature article is the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the Vela (Sail in Latin) Hotel spy satellites. These satellites were put up to verify the nuclear test ban treaties.

Completely unexpected was the Vela Hotel’s discovery of gamma rays (high energy, short wave length photons) bursts from outside the Milky Way. The sources of these bursts were named Quasars and the energy output was enormous, more than would be generated by the collapse of a galaxy. The British physicists Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees suggested that the source of this enormous energy was matter collapsing into a massive black hole. Further, they suggested that a massive black hole might reside at the center of every galaxy. Cosmologists now believe they are right. By 2000, the presence of a massive black hole at the center of our Milky Way, Sagittarius A, was confirmed beyond a doubt. This black hole is 27,000 light years away and has a mass of 4 billion suns. The properties of the black holes are determined from the orbits of surrounding stars. Kepler and Newton told us how. The orbits of the stars orbiting Sagittarius A can be viewed on the Internet.

A gas cloud with the mass of several earths is approaching Sagittarius A and perhaps, if the cloud is devoured all at once, it may be visible from earth with modest instruments this summer. This is unlikely, but you can bet the professional astronomers will be looking to see what happens to matter as it falls into a black hole.

I am pleased to inform Jim that his image will be preserved for eternity as a hologram on the event horizon of a black hole.

I am grieved that nearly everyone in the county seems so unhappy. Perhaps we should pause a moment and give thanks for all we have in this wonderful country. I especially want to give thanks to the gracious ladies at the senior luncheon who let me wash the dishes.

Bob Dungan


This story was posted on December 26, 2013.