The Herschel space observatory, a European Space Agency mission has discovered the existence of surprisingly hot gas being devoured by a massive black hole that is present in the center of the Milky Way galaxy

"The black hole appears to be devouring the gas," said Paul Goldsmith, the U.S. project scientist for Herschel at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This will teach us about how super massive black holes grow."

The black hole, referred to as "our local black hole" by astronomers is located in a zone known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). It is a source of radio waves. The black hole is at a distance of roughly 26,000 light-years away from the Earth's solar system and has a mass that is four million times the mass of the sun.

Despite the distance, the black hole is closer to the Milky Way than any other galaxy which has an active black hole at its center. This makes it easier to study the environment around these objects.

Scientists were surprised to discover the hot gas present in the innermost central region of the Milky Way. The temperature of the gas is more than 1,000 degree Celsius, making it much hotter than typical interstellar clouds. Usually, typical interstellar clouds are only a few degrees above zero or minus 273 degrees Celsius.

With the help of near-infrared observations, astronomers were able to spot a separate, compact cloud of gas equal to just a few Earth masses moving toward the black hole. The compact cloud is located much closer to the black hole and scientists predict that it may be gobbled up totally sometime late this year.