The galactic plane:
A year ago we were having fun with the Mayan Apocalypse.  The end of the world was predicted and, predictably, it didn’t happen.  For me the most amusing part was watching the contortions experts were going through to persuade us that there was nothing in it at all.  They went to such lengths and selected their data with such finickyness that if the idea hadn’t been so preposterous I might have begun to lend it some credit.

Well now people are taking a real serious look at the center of the galaxy.  (Jeremy D. Schittman The Curious Behavior of the Milky Way’s Central Black Hole SCIENCE vol. 341 no. 6149 August 30, 2013 page 964 and Q. D. Wang et al. Dissecting X-ray-Emitting Gas Around the Center of Our Galaxy page 981 in the same issue) They have means to count the stars near the central black hole (the center itself is shrouded in dust), and just as the sun emits a solar wind of charged particles so do those stars.  They tot up the amount of matter being emitted and calculate how much energy ought to be coming out.  Well more than 99% of what goes in fails to stay there.  There is less than 1% that actually goes over the event horizon.  Of course my own guess, just a surmise really, is that there is no such thing as a “black” hole.  Time runs backwards.  Things pop out.  Nothing can fall it.  But let’s go with received wisdom and say things are falling in.  Well given the amount that ought to be falling in the center should be a lot brighter than it is, like a million times brighter.  Hmm.

The relationship between that black hole and the Mayan prophecy is that around about the time the prophesy either was or was not predicting dire things we passed through the plane of the galaxy. 

Now one of the peculiar features of the Milky Way is that our galaxy is strangely quiet.  Black holes in other galaxies of comparable size put out a lot more energy.  Apparently even in the far edges, where we live, a typical galactic black hole would be hostile to life.  Well that’s nice.

But then as sort of an afterthought the introductory article mentions that there is a big dust cloud headed right into the black hole and (may I add a bit of emphasis) it will arrive in a few months.  Of course actually it must have arrived ages ago and it is only that we are observing it now.  So we should also observe what happens next.  The prediction is that the energy from the dust cloud will increase the center’s luminosity a million fold.

In that case we should, for a time, be much more ordinary, galactically speaking.  So if the doom mongers (Sorry the other doom mongers.  I’m monger enough, but this one isn’t my field.) begin to make much of it, I’ll not be surprised.  Of course the dangerous radiation is ionizing cosmic rays, and they don’t travel in straight lines, so although any light emitted by the interaction might show up soon, the dangerous rays would show up a long time later and be spread over a long time as they get twisted around galactic magnetic lines of force. 

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