The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy


Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 0691095051
189 pages, 2 half-tones, 40 color plates
April 21, 2003

Could Einstein have possibly anticipated directly testing the most captivating prediction of general relativity, that there exist isolated pockets of spacetime shielded completely from our own? Now, almost a century after that theory emerged, one of the world's leading astrophysicists presents a wealth of recent evidence that just such an entity, with a mass of about three million suns, is indeed lurking at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way--in the form of a supermassive ''black hole''! With this superbly illustrated, elegantly written, nontechnical account of the most enigmatic astronomical object yet observed, Fulvio Melia captures all the excitement of the growing realization that we are on the verge of actually seeing this exotic object within the next few years. Melia traces our intellectual pilgrimage to the ''brooding behemoth'' at the heart of the Milky Way. He describes the dizzying 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. Carefully assembling the compelling circumstantial evidence for its black hole status, he shows that it is primed to reveal itself as a glorious panorama of activity within this decade--through revolutionary images of its ``event horizon'' against the bright backdrop of nearby, radiating gas. Uniquely, this book brings together a specific and fascinating astronomical subject--black holes--with a top researcher to provide both amateur and armchair astronomers, but also professional scientists seeking a concise overview of the topic, a real sense of the palpable thrill in the scientific community when an important discovery is imminent.

Selected as one of Choice's Outstanding Academic Books of 2003 by the American Library Association.

Selected as one of the year's Noteworthy Books of 2003 by the Christian Science Monitor.

"If you're at all curious about the nature and structure of black holes, phenomena as esoteric today as the aurora borealis was to the Vikings, read "The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy," by Fulvio Melia. Professional and armchair astronomers alike will delight in his scientific erudition, lucid style, and sophisticated charm. He casts intelligible light on these galactic drains by zeroing in on one point in space-time...The recurring question for Melia becomes: "How does one even deal with the nature of space and time in a region where gravity is so strong that it threatens to tear reality apart?" He predicts that advances in the ability to measure in ever greater detail light waves at great distances will soon allow physicists to better understand the relationship between general relativity and quantum mechanics..."The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy" could easily double as a reference work or textbook for an introductory astrophysics course. 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.

"I just got back from a trip to a black hole and my eyes are still bugging out. No, it wasn't from the intense gravitational pull of the singularity... but rather the incredibly fascinating story that author Fulvio Melia weaves in "The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy." Melia is a gifted astrophysicist at the University of Arizona 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..." Carolyn Collins Petersen, Sky & Telescope.

"...Melia uses well-chosen earthbound metaphors to explain these arcane concepts, and he lays out the theoretical underpinnings with mathematics simple enough for readers with basic college algebra or physics to follow. 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 Magazine.

"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.

"...Many readers, especially amateur astronomers, will enjoy this accessible book. Fulvio Melia has contributed significantly to astrophysics and has had a sustained and substantial interest in the Galactic Center. Here, he presents the story of the black hole that has been suspected for over thirty years to exist there, but for which the evidence has dramatically firmed up in the last five years." Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain.

"...By concentrating on one point in spacetime, Fulvio Melia brings a welcome focus and clarity to this popular exploration of our galaxy's center. Graced by reliable and readable excursions into relativity and other relevant fields, this book is obviously that of an author out to do his best possible work." Timothy Ferris.