In summer 2013, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way was getting ready to feast. A gas cloud three times the size of our planet strayed within the gravitational reach of our nearest supermassive black hole. Across the globe, telescopes were being trained on the heart of our galaxy, some 27,000 light years from Earth, in the expectation of observing this unique cosmic spectacle. For cosmic detectives across the Earth, it was a unique opportunity. For the first time in the history of science, they hoped to observe in action the awesome spectacle of a feeding supermassive black hole.
In the last month of the space shuttle programme, Kevin Fong is granted extraordinary access to the astronauts and ground crew as they prepare for their final mission. He is in mission control as the astronauts go through their final launch simulation, and he flies with the last shuttle commander as he undertakes his last practice landing flight. Kevin also gains privileged access to the shuttle itself, visiting the launchpad in the company of the astronaut who will guide the final flight from mission control.
The Milky Way is our neighborhood in the universe. It’s a galaxy and there are many others out there. Galaxies contain gas, dust, and billions of stars or more. They come in four main shapes: elliptical, spiral, peculiar, and irregular. Galaxies can collide, and grow in size by eating each other.